Threats Continue After Arrest Is Made
On Friday, March 3, The Jewish Federation organized a bi-partisan rally with New Jersey elected officials to assemble in support of the Jewish community in response to recent anti-Semitic threats against Jewish Community Centers nationwide. Governor Christie, Senators Booker and Menendez, and Congressmen Pascrell and Gottheimer stood united with hundreds of people at the Kaplen Jewish Community Center on the Palisades to show their solidarity not only to our local Jewish community but to the Jewish people at large.
Jordan Shenker, CEO of the JCC in Tenafly, thanked law enforcement and elected officials who banded together to protest what has been more than 100 incidents at 80 community centers across the country over the past seven weeks. “These leaders will not allow these threats to shake our community and our faith,” Shenker expressed. The JCC by definition is a safe haven where people of all ages, from young toddlers to seniors, gather for entertainment, education, exercise and so much more. “This is not a Jewish issue, rather an issue of integrity.”
Senator Bob Menendez made it clear that acts of hatred will not be tolerated. From these instances “we learn anti-Semitism is not dead but dormant and easily re-awakened,” Menendez said. He vowed to rally in support of protecting and defending the Jewish community. “Together we are stronger than those who hate us,” Menendez proclaimed.
Governor Chris Christie, a Livingston native, identified New Jersey as the most ethnically diverse state in the nation, a characteristic he takes great pride in. He remembers a childhood living amongst many different people from all types of backgrounds working together harmoniously. “Diversity makes us better as a people. We will fight the fight but also stand up and celebrate the diversity that makes New Jersey so special,” declared Christie. The governor stressed the importance of everyone doing their part, noting that change happens when everyone works together. “It’s not OK to stand by and wait for someone else to do something,” he said.
Christie promised increased security at religious facilities and said the state attorney general will offer a $10,000 reward for tips that lead to convictions.
Senator Cory Booker ascended the podium and offered the crowd a few words of Torah. He referenced the kindness and hospitality that defined Abraham our forefather, welcoming guests from all four corners of his tent. Compassion for others is a foundation of Judaism and also an American ideal. “Today we gather as a response to hate, but more importantly as an affirmation of love,” Booker remarked. “We will inspire courage and obliterate fear.” While standing together in reaction to a Jewish issue, Senator Booker conveyed the importance of the American way, loving each person regardless of their race or ethnicity. As he concluded, he again referenced a famous citation from the Torah, “Love thy neighbor as thy love thyself,” a standard to which all people should be held accountable.
Congressman Bill Pascrell enlightened the audience on the rising number of hate groups in the past year, many of which are anti-Semitic. “These acts of violence don’t happen in a vacuum,” Pascrell insisted. He urged members of the community to speak out against such slander.
Congressman Josh Gottheimer spoke on a more personal level. As a parent of a child in a Jewish day school, he commented that these incidents hit close to home. “It is easy to become desensitized to the realities of the world we live in, which include security guards at the entrances to our schools. … I believe no matter what the group, we will not let hate prevail,” expressed Gottheimer.
The elected officials in attendance all shared the same agenda: hatred and harassment will not be tolerated. They assured the audience that increased grants from Homeland Security will be a priority. The prevailing message was that animosity is a result of division. If we, as both Jews and Americans, stand united, we will succeed in obliterating hatred.
Juan M. Thompson, a 31-year-old former reporter from St. Louis, was arrested last Friday in connection with eight bomb threats called into several Jewish institutions over the last month. Despite the arrest, more than 10 Jewish schools and institutions in the US and Canada were threatened by phone or email on Tuesday, and four more threats were made on Wednesday.
By Andrea Nissel