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Hundreds gather to denounce anti-Semitism at candlelight vigil

Debbie Tavel of Old Bethpage joined a gathering

Debbie Tavel of Old Bethpage joined a gathering of local leaders, interfaith clergy and community members at the Mid-Island Y JCC, Thursday evening, March 2, 2017, to show solidarity following a bomb threat at the center Monday. The threat is possibly connected to more than 100 anti-Semitic threats at Jewish institutions nationwide. Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Hundreds of people gathered and held candles aloft to take a stand against a spate of hateful acts directed not only against a Long Island Jewish center this week, but also the dozens of others across the country.

“It’s unacceptable and we have to put a stop to it,” said Rick Lewis, CEO of the Mid-Island Y Jewish Community Center in Plainview, at the candlelight vigil Thursday night.

Some participants wore yarmulkes while others sported turbans, still others sported fedoras while some preferred hoodies. Clean shaven and bearded, toddlers and seniors, the people gathered outside the center were as racially and ethnically diverse as their disparate faiths.

They represented faiths including Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Sikhism and others.

But, holding signs that said “United We Stand” and “Muslims For Jews,” they braved frigid temperatures for one reason: to send a message to the perpetrators of the bomb threats and anti-Semitic and racist graffiti that they won’t tolerate attacks.

“Not in our community, not in our town, not here, not now,” said Rabbi Jonathan Hecht of Temple Chaverim of Plainview, who helped organize the vigil called United Against Hate.

The group was responding to a wave of threats phoned in to Jewish centers this week, including one to the Plainview center Monday that prompted police to evacuate the facility that held about 400 people at the time.

About 100 bomb threats against Jewish centers were reported in the New York communities of Plainview, Staten Island, New Rochelle, and Tarrytown, as well as in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Indiana, Alabama, Missouri, North Carolina and Florida.

President Donald Trump said during his address to Congress Tuesday that the attacks are a reminder of deep divisions in the country but that Americans should unite against bigotry.

“Inclusiveness, tolerance and love will triumph,” said state Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), one of several politicians in attendance. “Those feelings of hate and intolerance have no place on Long Island or in New York.”

Nassau Legis. Carrie Solages (D-Elmont), said the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was concerned with how “good people” respond to hatred, adding, “We would be making Dr. King proud here tonight by what we are doing.”

Others in the crowd had come to show support for the center and the Jewish community.

“We are all children of Abraham,” said Jalees Ahmed, who said he is a parishioner of the Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury. “We want to let our neighbors know we condemn in the strongest terms acts against our Jewish brothers and sisters.”

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