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Local Leaders Respond to Wave of Anti-Semitic, Ant...

Local Leaders Respond to Wave of Anti-Semitic, Anti-Muslim Hate Crimes

Faith leaders and community leaders are coming forward to express the solidarity of Jews, Muslims and Christians – in Oakland and across the nation – in the wake of the vandalism of a Jewish cemetery in Missouri and scores of bomb threats against Jewish Community Centers across the country.

“It is awful for anyone to threaten or harm the religious places or houses of worship, synagogues, mosques or churches, making people uncomfortable and fearful,” said Rev. Ken Chambers, president of the Interfaith Council of Alameda Count and pastor of Westside Missionary Baptist Church in Oakland.

“We have to heal the wounds and division that this presidential administration has caused in the country,” he said.  “We as a religious community need to be united against this aggression and support those who have been victimized.”

In national news, Muslim-American activists this week began a campaign to pay for repairs of more than 170 headstones that were damaged and toppled in the Chesed Shel Emeth Society cemetery in the St. Louis suburb of University City in Missouri.

The crowd-funding campaign exceeded its goal of raising $20,000 within three hours and raised more than $110,000 by Wednesday afternoon. The additional money will be used support Jewish community centers that have been targets of anti-Semitic threats.

“Through this campaign, we hope to send a united message from the Jewish and Muslim communities that there is no place for this type of hate, desecration, and violence in America,” the activists wrote.

Eleven Jewish Community Centers were targeted with a new wave of bomb threats Monday, forcing evacuations in 10 states. In addition, 11 Jewish Community Centers received threatening calls. The centers were being reopened after explosive devices were not found.

As of Wednesday there have been at least 67 incidents at 56 Jewish Community Centers in 27 states and one Canadian province since the start of 2017.

Rebecca Kaplan, Oakland City Councilmember-at-Large and a rabbi, told the Post she was deeply concerned about the new attacks.

“The raising examples of anti-Semitic hate crimes are very troubling,” she said. “They are signs of the growing wave of overt white supremacy in this country right now, which the president and his senior advisers have been promoting.”

“Equally important,” she said, “is the beautiful outpouring of mutual support. It’s a beautiful moment of solidarity. We will not let divisiveness win. We will not let hate win.”

After remaining silent on recent hate crimes against Muslims, President Trump this week called anti-Semitic violence “horrible” and promised to take steps to counter extremism. He had been facing mounting criticism that the White House had not denounced vandalism and threats targeting Jewish institutions.

“The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community at community centers are horrible and are painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil,” Trump said after a visit to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The president described the tour as a “meaningful reminder of why we have to fight bigotry, intolerance and hatred in all of its very ugly forms.”

A recent expression of solidarity captured worldwide attention after another anti-Muslim hate crime. When the Victoria Islamic Center in Texas was destroyed by fire at the end of January, the leaders of the local Jewish congregation gave the keys to their synagogue so the Muslims so they could continue to worship.

“It’s given us a sense of hope,” Omar Rachid, a member of the Muslim congregation, told CNN. “It’s humanity at its best.”


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