WESTFIELD, NJ — More than 500 people gathered Wednesday evening to join Temple Emanu-El in its “March For Love and Against Hate.”
Participants coalesced at Westfield Town Hall and were led by Rabbi Douglas Sagal down East Broad Street, holding signs that said “United Against Hate,” “We Are Stronger Than Hate” and “We All Bleed the Same Color.”
“There have been a number of anti-Semitic and racist acts in Westfield and surrounding communities,” said Sagal, whose synagogue organized the march. “We began planning a few weeks ago, but given recent events, this march takes on additional meaning. We march for those who can’t.”
The police closed East Broad Street for the march and escorted the group down East Broad Street to Temple Emanu-El. Participants gathered in the temple, where local clergy and others had been invited to speak.
Rev. William Williams of the First United Methodist Church of Westfield quoted poet Langston Hughes before encouraging Westfield residents to support their neighbors.
“My brothers and sisters, we see the graffiti and messages of hate. At these times, we will remember the silence of our friends," Williams said. "This march should jar us awake.”
It is the third such time that the community in Westfield has organized against hate the past six months, following an October march in response shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pennsylvania and a similar gathering in March responding to the attacks on Mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
While the prior rallies were in response to incidents far away, Wednesday's march was a direct response to crimes nearby, including six hate incidents reported at Summit Public Schools and swastikas recently drawn on a street in Westfield, something that followed a series of hate crimes in Westfield Public Schools earlier in the academic year.
“Acts of hate will not be tolerated in our community," said Mayor Shelley Brindle. "We must band together as we are doing here tonight. I challenge every one of you to talk to your kids and to proactively engage with others who may not look like you. Tonight you have chosen to stand up and say, ‘enough is enough.’ We are one Westfield.”
Elizabeth Wolf, president of the Martin Luther King Jr. Association of Westfield, encouraged residents to report all incidents of hate and bias and to be a part of the fight for love. “We have one common enemy and that is hate,” Wolf said.
Temple Emanu-El Rabbi Ethan Prosnit led those in attendance in a prayer for those who have been killed because of hate before turning the podium over to Alayne Morgenthal, chair of the temple’s Tikkun Olam committee, a reference to healing the world.
“We must rise up against anti-Semitism and bias,” said Morgenthal. “Together we will be better.”
Sagal, the synagogue’s senior rabbi, concluded the program.
“We are taught that we must stand up to wrongdoing,” he said. “We will stand firm in our communities and will say that hatred has no place here. Go forth in peace.”
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