On Monday evening, hundreds gathered in the parking lot of Masjid Al Kareem, the Islamic Center of Rhode Island in Providence, for a vigil in memory of the 50 murdered Friday in Christchurch, New Zealand. The comparisons to our community’s vigil in the aftermath of the October 2018 shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh were unavoidable.
The local Muslim community was joined by other Rhode Island faith and civic leaders, elected officials and law enforcement members. One message rang true throughout all the remarks: love is stronger than hate. Rabbi Sarah Mack, rabbi at Temple Beth-El in Providence and president of the Board of Rabbis of Greater Rhode Island, shared words of support on behalf of the Jewish community. She also referenced the upcoming holiday of Purim. At the core of the Purim story is a young vulnerable woman, Esther, who stood up in the face of hatred. She implored those at the vigil to do the same.
Speakers also pointed out that the bonds between the faith communities exist beyond the difficult times. For generations, synagogues, schools, teen groups and individuals have built meaningful relationships between the many facets of the communities. These relationships are the anchors that allow for even greater support in times of need.
Adam Greenman, CEO and president of the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island said, “Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, racism and other forms of hatred are not new, however their exponential growth the past few years are beyond frightening. What gives me hope is that when we come together, work together and stand together, we can accomplish anything.”
Across the country, Jewish communities are standing in solidarity with their Muslim neighbors. The Pittsburgh Jewish community quickly mobilized to raise funds for victims.
Josh Sayles, director of the Community Relations Council of the Pittsburgh Federation, told Haaretz. “In the wake of the Tree of Life shooting, the Muslim community banded together and raised over $240,000 for us ... I hoped against hope that, four and a half months after Oct. 27, we would never have to step up in the same way for the Muslim community or any community, anywhere, as a result of a mass shooting. But given what they did for us, we did not have to think twice.”
STEPHANIE HAGUE (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the director of Community Relations at the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island.