In­ter­faith Ser­vice Urges Sol­i­dar­ity in Fight Against Anti-Semi­tism

A rabbi would or­di­nar­ily be ec­sta­tic to have more than 300 peo­ple in­side his sanc­tu­ary on a Sun­day af­ter­noon. But the spir­i­tual leader of Tem­ple Beth Abra­ham in Tar­ry­town greeted this crowd with mixed emo­tions.

“I am thrilled to see all of you. And I am sad to see all of you,” said Rabbi David Holtz.

Holtz led a river­towns in­ter­faith ser­vice on Jan­u­ary 5 in sol­i­dar­ity against anti-Semi­tism. He was joined by pas­tors from lo­cal houses of wor­ship, in­clud­ing the Trans­fig­u­ra­tion Church, Christ Church, Belvedere Fam­ily Church, the Chris­t­ian Sci­ence Church and Fos­ter Memo­r­ial AME Zion Church, all in Tar­ry­town, and the South Pres­by­ter­ian Church in Dobbs Ferry.“

What be­gins with anti-Semi­tism of­ten turns into other ug­li­ness,” Holtz said. “And we can­not al­low that to hap­pen.”

The ser­vice was held amid a spate of in­ci­dents in New York and New Jer­sey in re­cent weeks that have shaken the area’s siz­able Jew­ish com­mu­nity where anti-Se­mitic acts, once vir­tu­ally un­known, have be­come in­creas­ingly com­mon­place.

For Holtz, the af­ter­noon rang fa­mil­iar. It was 15 months ago that Tem­ple Beth Abra­ham held an in­ter­faith ser­vice fol­low­ing the at­tack on the Tree of Life Syn­a­gogue in Pitts­burgh that left 11 dead.

“That gath­er­ing was re­ally much more about gun vi­o­lence and the ac­ces­si­bil­ity of these weapons of mass de­struc­tion that took the lives of so many of var­i­ous re­li­gions all over the world,” Holtz said. “To­day I feel it comes closer to home than it did be­fore.” Ola Nos­seir, of the Mus­lim group Our Com­mon Be­liefs, was at the Tree of Life ser­vice and, as the vic­tim of sev­eral hate crimes in Westch­ester County, knows that more
than thoughts and prayers are needed.

“I be­lieve strongly that some­how, through love, knowl­edge and ed­u­ca­tion, we can erad­i­cate hate,” she told the au­di­ence, a mix
of tem­ple mem­bers and lo­cal res­i­dents.

They were joined by an ar­ray of lo­cal of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing Westch­ester County Dis­trict At­tor­ney An­thony Scarpino Jr., Green­burgh Su­per­vi­sor Paul Feiner and State Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Leader An­drea Stew­art-Cousins, who rep­re­sents the river­towns.

“We have to send a strong mes­sage that we as a com­mu­nity won’t stand for [anti-Semi­tism] and that we’re bet­ter than this,” Stew­art-Cousins said.
Also at­tend­ing was State Sen. David Car­lucci, whose dis­trict in­cludes Mon­sey, where five peo­ple were stabbed at a rab­bi’s
home dur­ing a Han­nukah party.

“If we’re go­ing to find a way to turn things around, it’s go­ing to be in New York,” Car­lucci said af­ter the ser­vice. “We have one of the most di­verse states. We’ve al­ways been lead­ers in en­sur­ing we can live in a di­verse
com­mu­nity. This is so dis­turb­ing to see.”

The ser­vice was pre­ceded in the morn­ing by a march of 20,000 peo­ple over the Brook­lyn Bridge speak­ing out against hate and fear. Among them was Gov. An­drew Cuomo, who an­nounced that $45 mil­lion in state funds would be made avail­able to help re­li­gious-based in­sti­tu­tions pro­tect against hate crimes.

In­deed, se­cu­rity has be­come a top pri­or­ity at syn­a­gogues in­clud­ing Tem­ple Beth Abra­ham, which has armed guards pre­sent for ser­vices and when the tem­ple’s re­li­gious school is in ses­sion. Holtz lamented how
that has be­come the new nor­mal.

“What both­ers me even more that we have a guard is that we’re get­ting used to it,” he said. “It’s just wrong.”

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