On Friday, March 3, members of the Muslim and Jewish communities united at the Bronx Muslim Center on Rhinelander Avenue, along with local elected officials, to call for tolerance and unity in the face of increased bigotry.
Muslim Americans have faced a slew of attacks recently, while a wave of bomb threats against Jewish establishments and the desecration of Jewish cemeteries across the country, have left both groups on edge.
Hate crimes reported in New York City rose 55 percent from the same date in 2016, according to the NYPD.
Anti-Semitic hate crimes during that time jumped a staggering 94 percent.
“We are one family, coming from Adam and Eve, and we have to stand for justice, freedom and equality for all, regardless of belief, color or social status” said Hamud Alsilwi, Iman of the Bronx Muslim Center.
Alsilwi and his congregation were joined by members of the Bronx Jewish community, including Charles Landsberg, president of the Jewish Community Council of Pelham Parkway.
Landsberg said that while the human race likes to think of itself as the supreme commanders of planet Earth, there was still much progress left to be made.
“We’ve swam like fish, we’ve flown like birds, but until we can walk together like brothers, we’re not fit to mix with the animals,” Landsberg said.
The religious leaders were joined by Senator Jeff Klein, Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj and Councilman Ritchie Torres.
“The last several months have been very difficult, for all the communities who care about decency here in the Bronx,” Klein said. “This is something we have to send a very clear message about, we have to stand shoulder to shoulder. We have to stand united against hate.”
Klein mentioned his grandfather, who fled the Holocaust in Europe, but was not originally allowed in the United States, and instead had to emigrate to Argentina first.
“There are those who say the immigrants of yesteryear came here to make America great,” he said. “But you know what? Immigrants who come here today come to make America great as well.”
Klein announced he was advocating for $25 million to provide security for New York state religious institutions in next year’s state budget.
He also proposed legislation to make racist graffiti a hate crime.
Gjonaj also praised immigrants as making America great, and urged Americans to reject hate.
“An attack on any religion is an attack on all religions,” he said.
The politicians sponsored an informational forum on immigrant rights later that evening for the community at the Muslim center.