MONTVILLE, NJ – On Jan. 12, two Jersey City Police deputy chiefs, Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill, state Senator Joseph Pennacchio and area clergy spoke at an event designed for healing and reflection on the victims of the Jersey City shootings that took place Dec. 10, 2019. Hosted by the Pine Brook Jewish Center, the officials and clergy members urged solidarity as a community so that hate cannot breed violence. The evening, a memorial event for victims Moshe Deutsch, Leah Minda Ferencz, Douglas Miguel Rodriguez, and Detective Joseph Seals was also a fundraiser for the families. A dinner followed the speakers.
In a secular session hosted in the synagogue’s chambers and attended by more than 100 people, Rabbi Mark Finkel opened with a prayer stating, “God, if only your shelter could protect us from the hatred and violence that has again risen once again. […] Help us to find ways to strengthen compassion and kindness in our communities.”
Sherrill said, “We’re here tonight in the face of that kind of hatred that we see in the anti-Semitic acts across our region, to show that that’s not what we believe in. We’re coming together to stand strong in the face of that. I’m so happy to see everyone here. I’m going to another vigil in Morris Plains; we’ve had others throughout the 11th district and I’ve been invited to many others. People across New Jersey are showing how deeply concerned they are. It’s heart-warming to see everyone coming together to see how we grow as a community to fight hatred in all of its forms.”
Pennacchio spoke of the note that one of the shooters left behind, which he stated, “I do this because my creator makes me do this and I hate who he hates.”
“That rampage saw four innocent lives taken, both Christians and Jews,” Pennachio said. “Does God hate that much? I doubt it.”
Township Committee Member Matthew Kayne spoke of how close Monsey, the site of recent stabbings of Jews, and Jersey City are to Montville.
“It should give us all reason to pause,” he said. “We live in a great community. Recognizing and appreciating our diverse religious, cultural and ethnic backgrounds and focusing on our commonality is crucial.”
Kayne spoke of the organization OneMontville and its focus on kindness and acceptance, and he spoke of the interfaith Thanksgiving service that was held two days before Thankgiving.
“More than 150 citizens attended what has become an annual event, this time held at [Montville Reformed Church], organized by Montville clergy from all different backgrounds,” he said. “Unity and acceptance could be felt in every corner of the room. Truly, together we can all stand up against hate, ignorance and bigotry.”
Cantor Menachem Toren sang “God Bless America” to open the event. Pastor Donald Kirschner of Montville United Methodist Church, Rev. Tom Henion of Montville Reformed Church, Pastor Sidney Williams from Bethel Church in Morristown and Sister Ellen Byrnes of St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church in Lincoln Park also spoke.
Gul Khan of Jam-E-Masjid in Boonton decried that there has been a serious escalation in hate crimes and domestic terrorism. He urged attendees to pay attention to what they said, because, “Words matter, and the words of our leaders matter most. Today we ask God for forgiveness, guidance and peace in our heart and protection from people of injustice. God did not create us for wars, or to decide who should live or die.”
Montville resident and Jersey City Police Deputy Chief Pete Lagis attended the event with fellow JCP-DC and Montville resident Nick Flora.
“It’s important for us as a community to get together to discuss these events and exude positivism so it outweighs the negative actions that happened on that day,” Lagis said. “It helps us to heal as a community.”
“As a resident and a member of the Jersey City Police Department it was a privilege for [Montville Township Police Chief Andrew Caggiano] to invite us and to attend,” Flora said.
PBJC President Barry Marks stated, “You’ve heard a lot of words, but why are we here? We are here as a total, diverse community, and solidarity against hate is sorely needed. We have read about horrible acts in multiple communities – Jersey City; a Christian church; Charlotte; bombings in mosques around the world. It keeps getting closer. We need to ask ‘Where is next?’ We need to raise our voices. We need to show our support.”
To find out more about PBJC or to donate to the families through the PBJC, go to: PBJC.
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