Speaking before a predominantly Muslim audience of 60 people at Newark City Hall, Rabbi Simon Rosenbach said, “The Torah tells us to love the stranger, because we were strangers in a land not our own.”
Rosenbach, religious leader of Ahavas Sholom, the city’s 109-year-old Conservative synagogue, was one of four clergy members in Newark invited to address a Feb. 1 press conference to decry a nationwide wave of anti-Muslim rhetoric and violence.
He spoke with NJ Jewish News several hours after his speech.
Noting that the event was being held on the day of the Iowa presidential caucuses, Rosenbach said he told his audience — without mentioning names —that several candidates for the White House “are vying in rhetoric in promising to keep Muslims out of this country.”
Rosenbach said he “referenced the Japanese Americans who were held in detention camps during World War II, and I said, ‘I gotta tell you: If you adopt the position that somebody can be excluded from this country, they could be coming for you next.’”
Joining him were the Rev. Louise Scott-Rountree of Mayor Ras Baraka’s Office of Clergy Affairs; the Rev. Dr. Perry Simmons of the Abyssinian Baptist Church; and Imam Daud Haqq of the NIA Masjid & Community Center, who serves as president of Muslim Outreach for Anti–Violence and is an active member of the Imams Council of Newark.
Speaking under the banner of “One Community, One Life, One Human Spirit,” the clergy members urged Newark residents to “oppose divisiveness and support diversity and unity,” according to a City Hall press release.
Mayoral press secretary David Lipmann told NJJN that although there is little violence directed at Newark’s Muslim community, “we wanted to show solidarity with the rest of the nation in condemning these hate crimes.”
“The city of Newark and the entire nation are facing a frightening upsurge in anti-Muslim rhetoric and violence, which is creating divisiveness and tragedy in our nation,” said the press release. “As a diverse and united people, we cannot allow the cynical words of an ignorant few harm the lives of the loving many. We will overcome hate with love.”
The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University in San Bernardino released a study in December saying that after the Paris attacks of Nov. 13, there were 38 hate crimes against Muslims in the United States. Until then, such attacks averaged about 12.6 a month.
“In Newark, we are determined as a people, a city, and a community to reject violence and killing in all its forms. That is why we come together as diverse faiths and one people today to denounce all forms of violence and hatred, and say, ‘We are Newark,’” the release said.