Faith Leaders, UN’s Guterres Unite in Call to End Hate

Hundreds stood united on Oct. 31 at Park East Synagogue, to remember the massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue and take a stand against religious intolerance and bigotry. | Photo by Tequila Minsky

BY LESLEY SUSSMAN | A who’s who of some of the city’s top-ranking faith leaders and civic and political leaders attended a gathering on the morning of Wed., Oct. 31, at Park East Synagogue, on the Upper East Side, to remember the massacre, and denounce all acts of violence and hate that have occurred throughout the nation.

Among those who attended the gathering, at 163 E. 67th St., were Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York; Archbishop Demetrios, primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America; United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres; New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill; and Archbishop Bernardito Auza, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations.

Other notable personages who attended the meeting to speak out against religious intolerance and bigotry were Reverend Clifton Daniel III, dean of the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine; Sheikh Musa Drammeh, chairperson of the Islamic Cultural Center of North America; and Dani Dayan, consul general of Israel in New York.

More than 200 people attended the memorial, which was co-organized by the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, an interfaith partnership of corporate and spiritual leaders. Since 1965, the foundation has worked on behalf of religious freedom and human rights throughout the world.

The event’s other co-organizer was United Against Hate, a statewide nonprofit, nonpartisan organization  composed of people seeking to blot out hateful speech and actions. On Wednesday, meanwhile, New Yorkers continued to beat the drum against anti-Semitism and religious and racial bigotry at a noontime rally on the steps of City Hall attended by a coalition of city councilmembers, faith-based leaders and advocacy groups. Speakers expressed solidarity with the city’s Jewish community.

At Park East Synagogue, Senior Rabbi Arthur Schneier, founder and president of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, told the audience that he was a Holocaust survivor who had seen his synagogue in Germany burned to the ground by the Nazis while police and firemen stood by and did nothing.

“I thank our police forces for the protection against harm they are providing us,” he said. “How good it is that they and everyone else — including members of Congress — are together as one and here, today, to promote peace in the world and remember the people who were killed in Pittsburgh.”

Cardinal Dolan told the audience, “We are not afraid.”

“The wounds of Pittsburgh are still oozing but we are not afraid,” he said. “We know that God changes darkness to light and we praise God for his mercy and endurance forever.”

UN Secretary-General Guterres remarked that he fears the rise of neo-Nazism throughout the world.

“Anti-Semitism is the oldest and most persistent  form of hatred in the world,” he said. “Jews are being persecuted and attacked just for being who they are.  I see the roots of neo-Nazism growing.”

Archbishop Demetrios said he had “no proper words to express my sorrow and condemnation for the event that happened in Pittsburgh.

“We must continue God’s dream for the world to put an end to division and hatred,” he said. “We must help create God’s dream of unity and peace for this world.”

Saturday evening, an interfaith vigil was held in the Village at Judson Memorial Church. Faith leaders from Lab/Shul and Judson came together for a service, which was followed by talking circles and a candlelight memorial in Washington Square Park.

During the service’s first part, an African American reverend led the group in singing “Amazing Grace” and “We Shall Overcome.” A woman from Squirrel Hill, the neighborhood where the Pittsburgh shooting occurred, spoke. An African American played the piano and sang a Yiddish song, “It is Burning,” based on a poem about the burning of a shtetl, written in 1936 byMordecai Gebirtig. The poem was written in response to the pogrom of Przytyk, which occurred on March 9, 1936.

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