News & Opinion » Columns

Standing together against hatred


It is with great distress that we read of the recent arrests of individuals from the Town of Greece accused of making bombs and possessing weapons, with the intention of carrying out an attack on the Muslim community of Islamberg in Delaware County.

According to news reports, members of the group planned the attack using social media channels popular with white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups. One of the accused posted anti-government, pro-Confederate, anti-immigrant, and anti-gun-control rants on his Twitter account, according to local media.

As members of the Rochester chapter of J Street, a pro-Israel, pro-peace organization that supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we are deeply disturbed by the increase in white supremacist activity in the United States and the attendant rise of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and racist attacks on people of color. Those who inflame fear of immigrants, whether from Muslim countries or Latin America, would like us to forget the fact that the majority of us, of all generations, are immigrants who came to this country seeking the very same things: greater personal security, greater economic prosperity, and the freedom to practice the faith of our choice.

The United States has benefited immeasurably from the rich diversity of its citizens. The real threat to our society is not from those who may be different from us, but from those who view the country as the privileged home only for those of a particular race or religion.

A recent report by the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism found that white supremacists and other far-right extremists have been responsible for 71 percent of domestic extremist-related killings during the years 2008-2017. We are saddened and repulsed that such violence seems only to have been emboldened by the actions of the current administration in Washington and a president who declared there were "good people on both sides" when responding to the white supremacist, racist, and anti-Semitic, rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, one and a half years ago. The rally resulted in the murder of social activist Heather Heyer by a neo-Nazi sympathizer.

We are particularly dismayed that such a violent anti-Islamic plot found fertile ground in our own local community, in which we strive to promote inclusion, interfaith cooperation, and harmony. We recall, with a sense of gratitude, the comfort we felt in the outpouring of support for our Jewish community from the local Muslim and other faith communities following the horrific attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. We were moved by the thousands of concerned Rochesterians of all faiths who attended a community vigil in response to this attack, held at Temple B'rith Kodesh, and the more than 50 clergy leaders who were there to lend their support. 

As Jews who experienced xenophobia and anti-Semitism throughout our history in the Diaspora, who suffered discrimination and persecution and genocide, we cannot be silent. When acts of hatred flourish, we are all in danger. We therefore condemn all acts of hatred and express solidarity with our local Muslim communities. When we stand together, we are all stronger.