|Rep. Gerry Connolly at the podium, surrounded by public officials. [Jamie Smith]|
Government leaders and the heads of various religious institutions appeared at a news conference at the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia March 3 to denounce the recent wave of anti-Semitic vandalism and intimidation nationwide.
Hundreds of gravestones were toppled at Jewish cemeteries in Missouri and Pennsylvania, and more than 100 Jewish community centers and schools have received bomb threats. There were 21 bomb threats on Feb. 27, including one targeting the Gesher Jewish Day School in Fairfax.
“We must demonstrate that we have zero tolerance for such disgusting acts of prejudice,” said Connolly, who is on the bipartisan Anti-Semitism Task Force on Capitol Hill. “This is our shared fight. It is not open season on Jews, Latinos, African Americans, Muslims, or any other minority groups in America. It is unacceptable, and I will fight it with every ounce of my being.”
“There is a reason we have witnessed a rise of white supremacist activities in general over the last year,” Connolly said. “We know that hate begets hate. And one need only to turn on the nightly news or scroll through one’s Twitter feed to see the kind of incitement that leads to the acts we have gathered to protest and condemn.”
“Hate is not an acceptable expression of political opinion, and it must never be,” Connolly said. “America is a work in progress, especially on this issue, but it is my fear that the 2016 election actually set us back in fighting hate speech and hate crimes. We have seen it from the very top – the demonization of entire swaths of our society.”
Other elected officials who appeared at the news conference included Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring; Rep. Don Beyer; Rep. Barbara Comstock; Fairfax Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova; supervisors Penny Gross, John Cook, and Pat Herrity; state senators Dick Saslaw, Dave Marsden, and Chap Peterson; delegates Eileen Filler-Corn, David Bulova, and Mark Levine; Sheriff Stacey Kincaid; and Fairfax City Mayor Dave Meyer.
The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington organized the event as an expression of support and solidarity, both for the Jewish community and in opposition to hatred toward any faith or minority community.
Participating religious leaders included Imam Johari Abdul-Malik of Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center; Rizwan Jaka of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society; V. Shanmugasundaram of the Durga Temple of Virginia; Rabbi David Kalender of Congregation Olam Tikvah; Rev. Dr. Michael P. Burn of Providence Presbyterian Church; and Regan Brough of the Annandale Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.