By Gila Golder
Jewish Community Partners stands in solidarity with the 25,000 people who participated in the “No Hate, No Fear” march and rally against anti-Semitism and hatred in New York City yesterday in response to a recent spate of violent attacks against Jews in the city and surrounding areas.
The event, organized by UJA-Federation of New York, the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, and other national and local Jewish community and advocacy groups, came together in just days and featured marchers from across the political and religious spectrum—Jews representing all streams of Judaism, as well as those from the broader community who came to pledge their support.
City and state elected officials also participated, including New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who spoke at the beginning of the rally and pledged to provide more state funding for synagogue security, increase the police presence in vulnerable communities, and propose new legislation that would categorize hate crimes as acts of domestic terrorism.
Some marchers traveled from out of state in order to participate. Many wore Israeli flags draped over their shoulders as they walked, or carried signs featuring the “No Hate, No Fear” slogan and the hashtag #MeJew.
It took several hours for the thousands of marchers to cross the Brooklyn Bridge. Throughout the afternoon, the overwhelming message was one of Jewish pride and unity. Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, proclaimed, “There are certain moments where we are obligated to stand up together…Today we stand as one.”
Devorah Halberstam, whose 16-year-old son Ari was murdered on the Brooklyn Bridge in 1994 in an anti-Semitic attack, affirmed, “This is not just a march. We are here to send a clear message. We are proud of who we are. We will never take our yarmulkes off our heads.”
Bari Weiss, columnist for the New York Times and author of the book “How to Fight Anti-Semitism,” delivered a stirring address to the crowd, declaring that anti-Semitism is not what drives Jewish identity and that our inner strength will lead us through this challenging time just as it has led us through so many dark periods in Jewish history:
“I am a Jew because of Queen Esther, who understood that she had attained her royal position in order to save her people from destruction…I am a Jew because Ruth, the first convert to Judaism, told her mother-in-law Naomi, ‘your people will be my people and your god will be my god,’ reminding us of the centrality of the Jewish people to Judaism…I am a Jew because of the martyred of Tree of Life and Chabad of Poway and Jersey City. And I am a Jew because of the courage of those who fought back in Monsey and who then, immediately after the attack, gathered together to sing. And I am a Jew because of my brothers and sisters in Crown Heights and Boro Park and Williamsburg who refuse to hide their Judaism…
“Today, as in so many times in history, there are many forces in the world insisting that Jews must disappear or die. Some say it bluntly. Some cloak it in the language of progress.
“But I am a Jew because I know that there is a force far greater than that. And that is the force of who we are and the force of our world-changing ideas.
“The Jewish people were not put on Earth to be anti-anti-Semites. We were put on Earth to be Jews. We are the people whose God never slumbers or sleeps, and so neither can we. We are the lamp-lighters.”
Read Bari Weiss’ full speech here.