“Will they show up?”
Sunday morning, standing at Foley Square in lower Manhattan — the starting point of our “No Hate. No Fear.” solidarity march and rally — we had our answer.
Yes, they would — and how.
More than 25,000 people of all ages and from all walks of life converged from every direction. They came to proudly and publicly proclaim that an anti-Semitic attack against a visibly Orthodox Jew is an attack against all Jews, an attack against all New Yorkers, and an attack against all people of goodwill everywhere. And as we walked over the Brooklyn Bridge, with the sun shining brightly and the Statue of Liberty in full view, you felt the extraordinary power of our community.
The march and rally were conceived and funded by UJA, and planned along with the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York. We were also gratified to have ADL, AJC, and the New York Board of Rabbis join as co-sponsors. All told, nearly 200 organizations participated, with delegations from Cleveland, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Montreal, and Toronto. Dozens of elected officials — including our senior-most political leaders from the state, city, and Congress — came out. And, in a beautiful display of solidarity, a parallel rally took place in Israel, on the streets of Jerusalem. You can get a sense of how the day unfolded in this short video.
We deliberately chose to march over the Brooklyn Bridge into the borough of Brooklyn — where most of the violent anti-Semitic incidents in New York have been perpetrated against visibly Orthodox Jews — to show our solidarity with this community. As I said at the rally: “The point of the march was not simply to walk across a bridge, but rather to build better bridges. Between all denominations of Jews. Between Jews and non-Jews.” So that we can more effectively combat anti-Semitism and all forms of hatred together.
It was deeply inspiring to hear from the diverse group who came together with us: the Cardinal of New York; the Bishop of Brooklyn; leading African-American and Islamic leaders; New York Times writer Bari Weiss; musicians Matisyahu, the Maccabeats, and Shulem Lemmer; and representatives from every denomination and community of Jewish life in New York — including Williamsburg, Crown Heights, Borough Park, and Monsey.
Now, with the last megaphone packed away, we face an even more compelling question: “What’s next?”
To begin with, there’s still much more bridge-building to do. As has been reported in the press, despite significant outreach to the Haredi community in advance of Sunday’s event, not enough of the very community we were there to support showed up to march or attend the rally. There’s not a single reason, or simple solution, for that reality. At a minimum, though, the leadership across the spectrum of our Jewish community must commit to making bridge-building a shared communal priority. We must all learn to give each other the benefit of the doubt, replacing judgment with an open mind.
When it comes to bridge-building beyond the Jewish world, we’re going neighborhood by neighborhood, community by community. We know there are many young African-Americans and Haredi Jews living side by side who’ve never had the opportunity to speak with each other. A facilitated conversation and a shared dinner can go a long way, creating a space to break down stereotypes and prejudices. We’re also taking African-American and progressive local civil rights leaders to see Auschwitz and Israel to help inform their thinking, which in turn they will share with their constituents.
Critically, we also need to do more to adequately secure all our Jewish communal institutions. We’ve already helped fund more than 200 security assessments, an essential step for nonprofits seeking government security funding, and provided interest-free loans to cover their upfront costs. Our newly appointed Community Security Director Mitchell D. Silber will shortly begin hiring the five members of his team and an additional security camp specialist. We also just funded Community Security Service (CSS) to help onboard more volunteer security teams at local synagogues and other Jewish institutions.
Advocacy is another vital pillar — where UJA has garnered some important wins. In direct response to our efforts, Governor Cuomo raised state funding for institutions at risk of hate crimes from $25 million to $45 million. And I spoke on behalf of UJA at Senator Schumer’s press conference last week, strongly endorsing his announced proposal to quadruple federal security grants for nonprofit organizations from $90 million to $360 million.
These times demand our conviction, perseverance, and courage. They require us to denounce anti-Semitism and all forms of hate wherever we see it — especially when we see it in our own community and within our own political party. We must all also recognize that while a march and rally can be put together in less than a week, there’s no finish line in the fight against anti-Semitism.
Finally, I want to thank everyone who stood with us on Sunday, particularly those who patiently waited more than three hours to cross into Brooklyn. I’ll never forget what it felt like standing on the bridge and looking back, with only friends and allies as far as the eye could see.
And my enormous gratitude to all of you, who stand with us every day. Just look at what we can do when we come together.