Where Differences Meet
By Edie Johnson
In a year of political and social extremes and culture clashes, areas of conflict blistered to the surface in communities that border Orange County, and in Williamsburg, Brooklyn where many Jewish families lived before moving here. Just before the New Year arrived, the spate of violence, especially against the Jewish Community took its form by a brutal stabbing at a Rabbi’s home in Monsey, NJ , carried out by a schizophrenic ex-Marine during what was alleged to be in a full hallucinogenic episode. It also followed a sharp rise in almost a dozen other crimes of violence and left the Jewish Community in our area on high alert as well.
But the signs of community support were evident as well. Citizens of our county joined in actions of support and condolences, and prayers that those subjected to the massacre would survive and heal. A 78-year man still lies unconscious, his future in doubt.
In the end, most religious groups have a central belief in the importance of love and forgiveness. The picture above of the historic United Church of Christ in Blooming Grove is emblematic of a core belief by Christians and Jews alike that where one shines a small light of faith and goodness, it spreads, like the giant cross reflected on the side of the church, in the lightings of menorahs throughout our county, and in the prayers by the Jewish community for the mentally ill assailant. In Monsey a professional protective security company has offered patrol services for free.
Protective surveillance was seen within 48 hours in the Village of South Blooming Grove as well as Kiryas Joel. Orange County District Attorney David Hoovler quickly addressed the local concerns of safety.
Rabbi Jacob Rosner of Congregation Agudas Israel on North Street in Newburgh says he does not at all think of these stabbings as an event that happened at a safe distance, “We are all part of a community”. He is concerned about the signs of hatred showing up in social media that are unchecked, and asks that leaders and officials take some responsibility for evidence of hate in their communities. He expressed his appreciation for the protections that police and emergency response teams have offered. “They are heroes,” he said, ” But they shouldn’t have to be.” One of the most concerning reactions to the violence of recent months is that some Jews out of fright are hiding their Jewish identity reminiscent of one of the most horrific times in history. “Especially young people and those in college are afraid, and some are not wearing the traditional cap.
His temple shares its expansive interior for many activities with Congregation Kol Israel who shined their beautiful Menorah in the City of Newburgh.
With tensions high across the country, there is increasing frequency against any group or even individuals that seem “different”. Rabbi Rosner acknowledged the fatalities reported at a Texas Church. “It’s the same hate,” he said. Rabbi Kohn of Temple Beth Jacob expressed similar sentiments in a letter to his congregation Sunday.
The beauty of the moment shone through most powerfully when over 50 people, elected officials, faith leaders and members of Kol Yisrael turned out in the cold and rain to stand together on the front lawn and gaze upon the brightly-lit menorah in a public celebration and statement of freedom and letting light in.
Rabbi Rosner said there is a movement growing for all people, of any faith, to show solidarity on Monday, January 6, by wearing a cap “Kipah” to help the young rise above fear, and to demonstrate that being different can be a blessing.
Caption 1 – United Church of Christ in Blooming Grove holds a tradition of setting a floodlight behind a small cross which every Christmas sheds its light against the church entrance in the form of a giant cross. (Photo by Edie Johnson)
Caption 2 – Menorah at Cornwall Landing
Caption 3 – Congregation Kol Israel -lighting of the candles in a public display on the street facing south side of the lawn at 290 North St in the City of Newburgh for all to see and enjoy. This tradition in the Jewish faith represents a lightening in the darkness that is both literal and symbolic. (Photo provided by Congregation Kol Israel)