MAHOPAC, N.Y. - Nearly a hundred people gathered in Chamber Park on Sunday afternoon to rally against the recent spate of anti-Semitism that has plagued neighboring communities, including Monsey in Rockland County, Yorktown, and New York City.
The interfaith event featured local clergy, elected officials and school administrators as guest speakers, all emphasizing that love will prevail over hate.
“The idea came about after talking to some of the other religious leaders here. We thought it would be great if we could get everyone together regardless of their faith—people of all walks of life—and be supportive of our neighbors who seem to be targeted in this recent string,” said the Rev. Casey Carbone of the First Presbyterian Church of Mahopac. “What better way than to come together as a community and show the love we have?”
Carbone said it’s hard to understand why anti-Semitism and other acts of hate seem to be on the rise.
“I don’t know if I can put my finger on one thing, but we have seen a rise in fear and that’s led to some of these acts of hatred,” he said. “The purpose here today is to try and quell some of those fears. Remind people that no matter what we face as a community, as long as we can be together and express the love that we have, we can overcome any of these trials.”
Rabbi Sarah Freidson of Temple Beth Shalom in Mahopac said that the hatred toward the Jewish people is “one of the oldest hatreds around,” and likened it to a virus.
“It pops up all over the place and has the ability to mutate,” she said. “It changes its form and we can see that now. Light is the best disinfectant.”
She said the internet has played a role in spreading the virus.
“With the internet, these groups are able to get a platform and recruit people and get their ideas out,” she said. “It isn’t rational and it’s a real problem.”
Addressing the crowd, Carbone said it was important to have rallies such as the one on Sunday to respond to hate crimes and show solidarity.
“It is unfortunate that such acts of violence are on the rise. The attacks in Monsey, right next door in Rockland County, and the string of vandalism that has taken place in Yorktown are a reminder that it is important for us to come together and proclaim that love will ultimately win at the end of the day,” he told the crowd. “Let’s show our solidarity and remember that love will, in fact, win. [We need to] show that acts of hate do not have a place here in Mahopac or our neighboring towns or wherever. Love is stronger than anything they can possibly bring. Love wins, and we need to stand up and repeat that mantra every day.”
Assemblyman Kevin Byrne of Mahopac told the crowd that the area’s greatest strength is its diversity.
“We need to continue to come together because diversity is truly one of our greatest strengths,” he said. “We work together, we look out for one and other. We need to make sure our voices are loud and clear—those who would spew hate and violence are the overwhelming super minority. We are the majority.”
State Sen. Pete Harckham agreed, saying that while acts of hatred will not be tolerated, we need to be part of the solution as well.
“Hate has no place in the Hudson Valley and it’s so important that we’ve all come together,” he said. “It’s not funny; it’s not cute and it won’t be tolerated. We are here as a community to say no to hate, but also to be part of the solution. Love. Kindness. Tolerance. We embrace our diversity. It’s what makes this place so special. It makes us stronger.”
Michael Tromblee, assistant superintendent for Mahopac schools, said his job has led him to believe there is hope for the future.
“I want to come with a message of hope,” he said. “Just as surely as we are living in the light of this beautiful day, we have hope for the future. Every day I get to walk through the school buildings and see the faces of our children . . . being kind, being compassionate, helping each other out and living out our core values. When I see that, I know that no matter how troubling our times are now, there is hope for our future.”
As members of the clergy spoke, the resounding theme was that love will triumph over hate.
“We are here today standing for love,” said Rev. Martin McGeachy, pastor of the Gilead Presbyterian Church in Carmel. “We are going to be people of love and we are going to preach love in all our many, many varied situations. I am thankful for standing in the light today.”
“I have noticed since I’ve been here how people work together and stand together and worship together,” added Rev. Kathleen Berkowe of the Church of the Holy Communion in Mahopac. “This is a day in particular when we stand in conjunction with our Jewish brothers and sisters.”
Rabbi Freidson said she was touched and encouraged by the support the town and the religious community have shown.
“We are enriched by our diversity. That is one of the mottos of our temple community. We stand together, and we stand proud and will not allow the hatred of any minority to flourish in our community,” she told the crowd. “Now [anti-Semitism is] touching me, but I can look around and say I have allies. It means so very much to know you’ve got our back just like we have yours. Together we are stronger.”
The rally concluded with Rev. Carbone on guitar leading the crowd in a rendition of “We Shall Overcome.”