A local pastor exclaimed that “I’m angry because we’re in a culture where hate sells” during an interfaith roundtable hosted at the Temp Beth-El in Jersey City by Gov. Phil Murphy (D) and U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) this morning.
“I’m angry because we’re in a culture where hate sells, governor. It’s profitable, it’s profitable. It unifies, it motivates, it creates fundamentalism, and I’m so grateful to God to have all of you here because I believe there is a way forward,” Cityline Church Lead Pastor Joshua Rodriguez said at the tail end of the hour-and-a-half discussion.
“I believe in anti-bias educational strategies for our children. I want to believe that our children’s generation, regardless of fundamentalism, of their world views, of how they say life, I believe we can get our kids to a place where we can transcend our thinking, respect each other and have dialogue if we choose to have dialogue – and not have it result in violence.”
Dozens of dignitaries and faith leaders were on hand to discuss ways to bring the community together in light of Tuesday’s tragedy that left six dead, including four innocent bystanders.
Precautionary measures were taken to ensure the place of worship was safe: two officers from the Hudson County Sheriff’s SWAT Unit armed with rifles guard the entrance.
Murphy led a moment of silence for Jersey City Police Det. Joseph Seals, Miguel Douglas, (also known as Douglas Rodriguez), Leah Minda Ferencz, and Moshe Deutsch before the program got underway.
Mayor Steven Fulop, who said this morning that he believes the children at the nearby yeshiva were the initial target of the attack, noted that if anti-Semitism could exist in Jersey City, it could exist anywhere.
“Diversity is no stranger to anybody in this community. If anti-Semitism, racism, and hate can exist in a community that is so familiar with diversity, the takeaway is that it can really exist anywhere. So it’s gonna be a long, long road back and it’s gonna take a lot of healing and a lot of time,” Fulop said.
Yesterday, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal confirmed that the killings are being investigated as domestic terrorism/bias crime incident after some questioned whether or not Fulop had jumped the gun in quickly referring to the slayings as a hate crime.
The mayor noted that everyone in the room will likely play a role in helping the city recover from this heinous act of violence.
Murphy, who traded praise with Fulop over their respective leadership roles during this difficult time, echoed that sentiment.
“Let there be no doubt that we saw hatred on Tuesday,” the governor began.
“We saw particular hatred towards our Jewish brothers and sisters, toward members of law enforcement, and I think the reason we’re gathered today is not just to acknowledge that said reality, [to] memorialize and celebrate the lives we lost, but to come together and find as much common ground as we can.”
Recalling the Dotbusters hate group that targeted Jersey City’s South Asian community in 1987, Menendez indicated that hatred can be found anywhere, but it’s up to the communities at large to reject it.
“Hatred very often rears its face in many different ways. In this case, it was a case of anti-Semitism and anti-police bias, but in other cases, it could be against the Muslim, the Hindu or a Coptic Christian. It could be just about anyone,” he said.
“ … Today we join to send a societal message that this type of bigotry, this type of anti-Semitism and this type of prejudice is not acceptable in our society.”
Other dignitaries who participated in the panel included U.S. Rep Albio Sires (D-8), U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-9), state Senator Sandra Cunningham (D-31), and New Jersey U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito.
The entire roundtable streamed live on our Facebook page and can be viewed below: