To the Editor:
The Livingston Clergy Association, which represents many houses of worship in our community, stands with those in our state and nation who condemn an unprecedented spike in hate rhetoric and bias-motivated incidents targeting minorities, especially those based on religion – most recently, towards Jews and Muslims.
In the wake of bomb threats to dozens of Jewish Community Centers in the past month, including the JCC in neighboring West Orange, anti-Semitic graffiti in communities across the country and NYC subways, and the more than 100 damaged headstones in a historic Jewish cemetery in Missouri, Jews are feeling threatened.
After a long presidential campaign in which Muslims were frequently villainized, which resulted in many episodes of individual American Muslims being threatened or attacked, Muslims are feeling threatened, too.
In a country where freedom of religion is enshrined in our founding documents, it ought to be offensive to all of us that anyone in our nation might fear harm from a stranger because of their religion. In a country where we uphold the rights and dignity of the individual, it is beyond contempt that anyone would assume license to hurt their neighbors because of the acts of someone else, somewhere else.
As religious leaders, we stand against all violence (or threat of violence) aimed at people on the basis of their religious practice. What we claim for ourselves we must also protect for others! So we are heartened when we see photos, of Jews and Christians protecting Muslims when they pray, and Muslims encircling and protecting a church on Christmas Eve in a majority Muslim land. Here in our own country, we are grateful for Muslims who have raised significant funds to repair Jewish graves that were damaged, and for Interfaith groups forming to say we will protect one another. We don’t have to agree in order to see our common humanity. For all of us, the God we serve requires us to love our neighbors – all our neighbors. We give thanks for these examples.
We are shocked and saddened that religion-based violence and threat is becoming more common in America, and we condemn those who provoke it as well as those who commit it. And we call all of our own congregations and our neighbors to condemn in the strongest possible terms the hatred and hard-heartedness that would participate in (or excuse) such actions.
May we who have enjoyed the blessings of liberty continue to uphold freedom for all our neighbors as well as ourselves.
for the Livingston Clergy Association
Rev. Susan Gillespie
Pastor, Trinity Covenant Church
Rabbi Faith Joy Dantowitz
Temple B’nai Abraham