JUF President Dr. Steven B. Nasatir delivered the following remarks at "Love Thy Neighbor: An Interfaith Gathering Against Hate" on February 8, 2017 at Chicago Loop Synagogue.
Thank you all for being here today. The support, love, and understanding we have received from our Muslim and Christian brothers and sisters has been wonderful to behold.
How sad and ironic that we are here at the Loop Synagogue today.
So many times over the years we have gathered in this sanctuary in solidarity, in protest, and in prayer -- when the Jewish community in Chicago has been threatened, and when terror attacks have struck down Israelis and Jews elsewhere overseas.
How sad and ironic that we gather today because this synagogue, symbolizing all synagogues, has itself been assaulted.
But we aren't here simply to decry the disgusting vandalism that took place here last Shabbat, or to recoil at bomb threats at dozens of JCCs around the country, including ours, which caused the evacuation of toddlers out of fear for their safety. We aren't here just to condemn a swastika carved into a bench at the Illinois Holocaust Museum, or to denounce anti-Semitic assaults on college campuses.
It is not just these assaults upon the Jewish people, which happened this past week, that bring us together. Our gathering today is about something larger than any one hate crime against any one group. We join together to cry out with one voice because something very precious and fundamental is at risk.
The injury caused by any act of hate committed against any person or any institution in our city and our country tears at the fabric of our entire nation. We are here to affirm that we will not surrender to fear. We will not surrender to hate. We will not surrender to destructive divisiveness. When it comes to preserving our shared principles, Americans of all ethnicities, races, and religions must stand together. Standing together is the response to the hatred we have experienced.
Look at the words of support this synagogue and our Jewish community received from Muslims, Christians, and so many others. Look at the action our Jewish community has undertaken on behalf of Muslims to raise funds for victims in Aleppo and assist its refugees. Witness the Jewish Federation's 40-plus years leading the Illinois Refugee Social Service Consortium. Together with our partners we have helped rescue and resettle here in our Chicago community over 125,000 victims of war and persecution of all faiths and nationalities.
Tragically, attacks on houses of worship, on people of color, on LGBTQ people, and on other groups, are nothing new. Hating the other is an all too common sin. What is new and alarming, is that hate crimes are increasing. The FBI reported 5,818 hate crimes in 2015, up about 6 percent over the previous year. Anti-Muslim hate crimes rose by 67 percent -- that's outrageous. Jews, who are just 1.7 percent of the population, are the target of more than 50 percent of all religious hate crimes -- that's staggering.
When Jewish institutions are desecrated with swastikas, when Jewish students are demonized and marginalized on college campuses and called racists because they support Israel's right to exist, we say, this evil hatred must be stopped.
When African-American churches are attacked and burned, and worshippers are murdered because of who they are, we are horrified. We will not tolerate racism in America.
When Muslim worshippers are murdered, when mosques are burned, or when policies are promoted that would harm certain groups solely because of their religion, we testify that there is no place in America for bigotry against Islam.
When 100,000 Christians are murdered in a single year in North Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, we bear witness and say, this slaughter must be stopped.
In the great tradition of the three monotheistic faiths, we continue to teach that all are created in God's image. We live the Torah's teaching, "You shall not hate your fellow in your heart," but shall "love thy neighbor as thyself." (Leviticus: 19)
We the Jewish people brought to the world the verse from the Torah engraved on the Liberty Bell: Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof. We the Jewish people brought to the world the absolute dignity and sanctity of every person. It is for this freedom and for this dignity that we have come together today.
And let the word go out from this assembly that we stand together to say "no" to all forms of hate.
Let us be clear that an assault on any one group is an assault on all.
Let there be no light between us, save the light of liberty.
At a time of great divisions in our country, let unity be our clarion call.