By Tim Harfmann and Christopher White
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — An estimated 25,000 New Yorkers took to the streets in a “Solidarity March” in protest of anti-Semitism on Jan. 5, among them Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, who told the crowd “we are all brothers and sisters under the one God who made us.”
The march, which made its way from Lower Manhattan to Cadman Plaza in Downtown Brooklyn, brought together Jewish and non-Jewish residents alike from the New York area, along with a host of local leaders, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Senator Chuck Schumer, Mayor Bill DeBlasio, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — all marching under the banner of “No Hate, No Fear.”
The march was organized by the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and the interdenominational New York Board of Rabbis.
On stage at the rally in Brooklyn, Bishop DiMarzio recalled growing up in Newark, N.J., where a Jewish couple — Mr. and Mrs. Sam Rose — who had no children or grandchildren adopted him as their own grandchild.
The bishop said he was proud to be present at the rally to honor their memory. “I learned to love Jews because they loved me,” he said.
“Today I stand here in their memory to make sure we have mutual understanding of one another. We need to interact more,” he continued. “We cannot show any prejudice toward one another, but only love.
“To those people who wear religious garb and are singled out for hatred or violence, it’s a terrible thing. We cannot let that happen in this great United States of ours. We cannot stand by and not do something,” he concluded. “I pledge to stand and do all I can to change minds and hearts within our communities so that we can truly stand together against any hatred, especially any anti-Semitism and its roots.”
In his remarks to the crowd, Cardinal Dolan drew from the words of St. Pope John Paul II, who often referred to the Jews as “our elder brothers and sisters in the faith,” meaning “we are one family.”
“When there’s an attack on you, there’s an attack on all of us,” Cardinal Dolan said to applause.
“We are united as we acknowledge that this dismal, scary hatred and violence that has afflicted the community we love can ultimately be solved only be a conversion of heart.
“You think that’s naïve? You think that’s overly sugary? No. Ask the experts like Ghandi and Desmond Tuti and Rabbi Heschel and Martin Luther King and Dorothy Day and Isaiah the prophet. Jesus himself.
“The experts who got things done — their first priority was to urge a conversion of heart, from interior darkness and hate that breeds this violence and anti-Semitism to light and life and love,” Cardinal Dolan continued.
“From spitting at someone to blessing someone. From fists to embrace. From machetes to mercy. From looking at someone as a threat to looking at someone as a friend. That’s conversion of heart.”
The march and rally came on the heels of a spree of anti-Semitic attacks in New York, most recently on New Year’s Day when a 22-year-old Hassidic man was beaten and subjected to hate speech in Williamsburg — the thirteenth known attack against Jews in the New York area in less than 10 days.
The violence on Jan. 1 followed the Hanukah attack at the home of a rabbi in Monsey, N.Y., where five people were stabbed in an incident that Cuomo labeled as “domestic terrorism.”
Family members of one of the victims of that attack, Josef Neumann, released a graphic photo on Jan. 1 of the father of seven children hooked up to respirators and stitched up from the multiple stab wounds he incurred. Doctors expect Neumann to be permanently paralyzed and are unsure if he will ever regain consciousness.
In response to the heinous attack, Bishop DiMarzio said, “Hate like this has no place in a civil society.
“Today we are reminded it is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness. Let us be that light as we pray for peace and practice tolerance today and always,” Bishop DiMarzio continued in a statement.
Bishop DiMarzio also joined more than 130 faith leaders from across the state, including Cardinal Dolan, to condemn the attack.
“Anti-Semitism, bigotry and hate of any kind are repugnant to our values and will not be tolerated in our state,” they said. “An attack against one of us is an attack against all of us. Together we will continue fighting hate and intolerance with love and inclusion.”
The attacks in New York come at a time when people of faith are facing increased violence at houses of worship across the nation.
According to the latest data from the Federal Bureau of Investigations, hate crimes in churches, synagogues, temples and mosques rose 34.8 percent between 2014 and 2018.
On Dec. 29, in Texas, a gunman fatally shot two churchgoers at West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, before he was killed by a security guard on-site.
The past year proved particularly deadly for people of all faiths across the globe. Incidents included the Easter Day massacres in Sri Lanka that killed more than 250 people and attacks at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, last March that killed 51 individuals.
In recent days, New York has ramped up security around houses of worship, and the governor has ordered increased patrolling in Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods throughout the state.
At the Jan. 5 rally, Cuomo said that the gathering was a “remarkable show of love and solidarity.”
“That’s New York at its best,” he said of the crowd on hand, adding that the violence have been “attacks on every New Yorker.”
“Discrimination, racism, anti-Semitism is repugnant to every value that New Yorkers hold here, and it’s repugnant to every value that this country represents,” Cuomo said. “Racism and anti-Semitism is anti-American and we have to remember that.”