Religious and political leaders in the tri-state stand with Jewish community after Pittsburgh massacre

NEWARK, N.J. — The deadliest crime against the Jewish community in the history of the U.S. happened some 315 miles from metro New York last Saturday, but it was clear on Monday that the impact of the tragedy is being felt deeply in our region.

The tri-state area has the largest Jewish population in the country, and at a variety of events, people of many faiths, as well as from both major political parties, came together in support of the Jewish community, and against hate.

In Newark, late Monday afternoon, Mayor Ras Baraka and New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal were among the Garden State’s top political leaders, who came together to counter what the host of the event called a message that has been heard too often lately.

“[That] individuals are out to to kill, steal and destroy,” said Pastor David Jefferson of Newark’s Metropolitan Baptist Church. “We stand together today in unity to say that as a community, we are better than that.”

New Jersey and New York are the states with the highest percentages of their populations being Jewish. Joining with the Jewish community at Congregation Ahavas Sholem, one of the oldest synagogues in New Jersey, were leaders who said they were both frustrated by hateful, violent acts, and resolute in stopping them.

“There are certainly things that we can do,” said Grewal, who’s the first Sikh official in the country to hold statewide office. “And it starts with this -- what we're doing right now -- coming together.”

Monday afternoon's show of solidarity in Newark was one of a number of such events around the region. On Monday morning, in Mineola on Long Island, County Executive Laura Curran brought together a large coalition of religious and political leaders to give one message against hate, with a variety of voices.

“We have to ensure that people throughout America see this,” said County Legislature Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams, as he pointed to the gathering of dozens of political and religious leaders behind him. "And not the hate that was spewed in Pittsburgh.”

Isma Chaudhry, leader of the Islamic Center of Long Island, addressed the gathering, in part, with a scriptural passage.

“Al Qur’an, Chapter 5, Verse 32, states, ‘Whoever kills an innocent person, it is as though he has killed all humanity,’” she said.

Father Walter Kedjierski, of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Center, centered his statement in theology. Speaking on behalf of Pope Francis, Fr. Kedjierski said, “Anti-semitism is antithetical to Christianity.”

“Let us all commit ourselves to doing every ting we can to obliterating anti-semitism, in all its forms,” he told the gathering.

Also on Monday, some New York City elected officials, including Comptroller Scott Stringer, joined with leaders of many religious faiths for a vigil at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn. It was organized by the National Action Network, as was the event in Newark.