In New York, Interfaith Coalition Makes Common Cause Against Rising Tide Of Hate

FILE - In this Dec. 11, 2019 file photo, Orthodox Jewish men pass New York City police guarding a Brooklyn synagogue prior to a funeral for Mosche Deutsch, a rabbinical student from Brooklyn who was killed in a shooting at a Jersey City, N.J. market. (AP

(RNS) — Synagogue safety has been a growing concern for American Jews ever since the October 2018 Pittsburgh massacre in which a gunman walked into the Tree of Life Synagogue and killed 11 people.

Nowhere has been more affected than the New York metropolitan area. In the Bronx alone last week, four synagogues in the Riverdale neighborhood were vandalized by a person throwing rocks and kicking in windows. Police are still searching for a suspect.

On April 16, clergy from 20 New York congregations, including Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews and Christians, met as the Interfaith Security Council held its first meeting to talk about how to share expertise and improve relations with law enforcement.

“Often the default is to look out for your own,” said Rabbi Bob Kaplan, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York’s Center for Community Leadership. “In this environment where resources are scarce and the threat is so real, we have to make sure we are all communicating with each other and sharing best practices.”

The council was founded with support from two Jewish organizations, Community Security Service, which trains volunteers to provide physical security around synagogues and another Jewish group, the Community Security Initiative, which assesses buildings for vulnerability to attack.

A third partner is the 67th Precinct Clergy Council of Brooklyn, which supports mostly churches in the borough's East Flatbush area. 

“With a heightened level of white supremacy and a heightened level of hatred we can benefit from the research, information and training that these Jewish organizations have and that can then trickle down to our organizations so we can protect ourselves as well,” said Pastor Gilford Monrose, the founding president of the clergy council and the pastor of Mt. Zion Church of God 7th Day.

Monrose said East Flatbush has seen a proliferation of gun violence at churches. In one instance, a funeral service for a young man killed in a gang-related shooting was interrupted by shots fired from a rival gang. In another case, a young man fleeing the police ran into a church during a church service.

The FBI’s latest hate crime report from 2019 found that 20% of hate crime victims were targeted because of the offenders’ religious bias, accounting for 1,650 offenses reported by law enforcement.

The number of hate crimes targeting minority groups appear to be increasing. In recent months, the country has witnessed a string of high-profile attacks on Asian Americans, including a mass shooting at Atlanta-area spas that killed eight people, including six Asian women, and a shooting at a FedEx warehouse in Indianapolis that left eight people dead, including four Sikh Americans.

Last week, the U.S. Senate passed a bill to help law enforcement respond to hate crimes and report them to the federal government, alongside legislation that specifically combats anti-Asian hate crimes.

While large churches can afford to hire off-duty police officers or professional security teams to guard their places of worship, smaller congregations, and especially minority faiths, don’t have budgets for that. Those are also the congregations that may be more vulnerable to white nationalist violence.

In addition to the Community Security Service's one-hour Zoom training, future training opportunities might revolve around trauma or attending to physical and mental health crises that result from bias attacks.

Despite living in close quarters in New York's densely packed streets, congregations have not always enjoyed the best relations.

“If we’re only doing it on our own, I may feel safer in my own building,” said Kaplan. “But if we’re doing it together, my building becomes safer because of the nature of the atmosphere in the community.”

Evan R. Bernstein, CEO and national director of Community Security Service, said the need for coordination among houses of worship has never been greater.

“A lot of different faith-based organizations are impacted by the rise of hate in this country,” said Bernstein. “The fact that we can incubate this now in New York is really special.”

If you are looking for a way to become an interfaith leader, work for racial equity and build bridges, please check out our free curriculum "We Are Each Other's" and start your interfaith leadership today

more from IFYC

A través de mi experiencia, sé que las familias hispanas han sido gravemente, y desproporcionadamente, afectadas por la pandemia, y los datos de la Encuesta sobre Diversidad Religiosa y Vacunas de 2021 de PRRI-IFYC lo corroboran.
"It is permissible within our religion to defer, or to make up your fast later if you're feeling sick."
From experience, I know that Hispanic families had been greatly, and disproportionately affected by the pandemic, and survey data from the 2021 PRRI-IFYC Religious Diversity and Vaccine Survey corroborates this.
As the last few days of Ramadan are upon us – take our interactive quiz to find out how much you really know about this holy month.
We weren’t sure what to expect or how to navigate the complexities of getting to know colleagues from a distance, but IFYC team members Silma and Nadia welcomed us into their homes, their traditions, and their faith.
As the final project for the class, we wanted to do something that would make our campus a more inclusive, interreligious place.
IFYC is collecting prayers and meditations from diverse faiths to show our solidarity with the people of India, as well as links to charitable organizations that people can support.
Generally, tradition holds that the body is to be cremated or buried as quickly as possible – within 24 hours for Hindus, Jains and Muslims, and within three days for Sikhs. This need for rapid disposal has also contributed to the current crisis.
“Humanitarian Day embodies why Islam is relevant in America today. It’s why many Black Muslims embraced Islam, to be part of the solution, not only in their personal lives, but in their communities." - Margari Aziza Hill, MuslimARC
Recently, I asked a group of IFYC Alumni to share what they do in one sentence. I love their responses because they capture who they are so well.
As a nurse and a physician occupying different spheres in relation to the patient, Anastasia and I held comparable but also differing views about the role of religion and interfaith in the realm of patient care.
El movimiento necesita artistas, educadores, trabajadores de la salud, padres, funcionarios electos, científicos, clérigos, directores generales, y cuantas personas sea posible para hablar en contra de la injusticia donde sea que la veamos.
The scholarship covers the students’ tuition, as well as housing and living assistance while they pursue undergraduate or graduate degrees across all 18 of Columbia’s schools and affiliates.
En esta foto del sábado 9 de mayo de 2020, el Rev. Fabián Arias lleva a cabo un servicio en casa, al lado de los restos de Raúl Luis López quien murió de COVID-19 el mes previo, en el barrio Corona del distrito de Queens en Nueva York.
It is certainly within the rights of philanthropic and political institutions to 'not do religion,' but such an approach undermines any meaningful, holistic commitment to community or place-based humanitarian efforts in much of this country.
Last month, Kevin Singer, co-director of Neighborly Faith, brought two interfaith leaders together to discuss their respective publications and the consequences of the Equality Act on religious organizations, institutions, and places of worship.
It is in this spirit respeaking memory and finding time to etch it into the future that I offer the following exercise. It is designed to do with your friends or folks – preferably three or more. Take some time with it. Use it as a catalyst to...
Imagine my surprise upon coming to USA and celebrating my first Easter, but didn’t people realize it was Easter? Why are all the egg die and chocolates already sold out and none left for us celebrating a few weeks later?
They will, in other words, be learning the skills of mindfulness meditation — the secular version of the Buddhist practice that has skyrocketed in popularity to become America's go-to antidote for stress.
This is a sampling of sacred texts and statements, listed in alphabetical order by religion, that religious communities have used to engage in the work of public health amidst this global pandemic.
Chaplain Fuller’s leadership and guidance has left a lasting, rippling effect on and off campus which will guide communities and individuals into multifaith work and engagement long after her tenure at Elon.

The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.