The following remarks were delivered by Susan Antman, Executive Director, Jewish Federation in the Heart of NJ, at a Highland Park, NJ, vigil for victims of this week's hate-motivated shootings in Jersey City, NJ.
Friends, neighbors, community leaders. We gather tonight in grief for Leah Minda Ferencz, Moshe Hirsch Deutsch, Douglas Miguel Rodriguez, and Detective Joseph Seals.
We grieve along with their families and communities. We grieve for the hate that drives one human being to target another – too often based on religion, ethnicity, or principles.
And we grieve the rise in anti-Semitic acts that NOW make New Jersey the state with the third highest number of anti-Semitic incidents in the country. A sad distinction.
But grief is much more than sadness. In fact, grief is a powerful brew that combines many emotions. Grief can include anger, fear, and regret, among many other emotions. Each of us experiences grief with our own combination of elements.
One thing we share is this: We are all here. In this place now. Together.
Each of us made a choice – or perhaps we were compelled – not to resign ourselves to the rising tide of hate, not to allow fear to silence us, not to allow our own differences to separate us form one another, and not to be paralyzed by grief. In fact, perhaps your grief, like mine, includes things like RESOLVE.
I represent the Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey serving every Jew in Greater Middlesex and Monmouth counties. Our Jewish teachings from every age make clear that Judaism is not merely about beliefs… or faith… or feelings. It is about mitzvot, commandments, deeds.
So, our grief MUST transcend emotions – whatever those emotions may be. Our grief MUST propel us to act. On behalf of every Jew in Monmouth and Greater Middlesex counties, and along with and for our interfaith neighbors and civic partners, Jewish Federation will continue to intensify our deeds fighting hate and securing lives – and we urge you to join us in doing so.
Our work spanning education, advocacy, and security will continue to
- Help Jewish organizations assess and address their security needs, including high-level training, partnerships with law enforcement, and government grants
- As you may know, Federation has helped bring more than $4 million in security grants, assessments, and training to dozens of Jewish organizations already, including many in Highland Park;
- We are convening an even wider swath of leaders from across our local Jewish community to advocate against hate at the local, state, and Federal levels;
- We are empowering more students, from middle school to college, to stand up to hate; and supporting law enforcement professional and elected officials to better recognize bias when it occurs; and much more.
Federation is profoundly grateful to our supporters and partners, so many of whom I see here tonight, for making this possible. We are all in this together. We are stronger together. We thrive together.
And together, even amidst our grief, we extend our gratitude to law enforcement and public safety professionals who immediately showed up for us, in a multitude of ways, when the horrendous events of this week took place in Jersey City and in the events’ aftermath.
Thank you to our valued partners from dozens of local police departments, our state police, county sheriffs’ and prosecutors’ offices, the NJ Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, state and Federal Attorneys General, the FBI, and many others.
Thank you to the many volunteers among Jewish Federation’s Security Task Force and our newly relaunched Jewish Community Relations Council building bridges across the Jewish community as well as with interfaith and civic partners.
And finally, thank you to each of you for demonstrating that the heart of New Jersey will not rest in our efforts to make the Jewish and broader communities stronger, safer, more supportive, and sweeter – today and for generations to come.