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Hundreds gather to show community support for the AJCC; against bias and hatred

Interfaith Vigil Albany JCC Director Adam Chaskin addresses the crowd.

Among the many community leaders at the recent “We Stand with the Albany JCC Against Hatred Vigil” were: Janice Woodard, Albany NAACP board; Carolyn McLaughlin, Albany Common Council president; Neil Stokes Holmes; Angelica Morris, director  Schenectady County Human Rights Commission; Deb Riitano, director, Capital Area Council of Churches; Pastor David Traynham, NAACP of Albany president, pastor, New Horizons Church, Albany; Donna Elia, Troy Area United Ministries; Adam Chaskin, director Albany JCC; Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan; Dr. Paul Uppal, Guru Nanat Darbar Sikh Temple, Niskayuna; Rabbi Deb Gordon, Congregation Berith Shalom, Troy; NYS Senator Neil Breslin; Shelly Shapiro, director community relations at the Jewish Federation NENY; Walter Ayres, Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany Peace & Justice Commission.

A interfaith community vigil “To Stand with the Albany Jewish Community Center” was held on Thursday, Feb. 2, two days after the second bomb threat hoax at the Center in January Between 350-400 local people, according to the Albany police, stood in solidarity with the harassed Albany JCC.  Interfaith leaders, representing various  faith and ethnic groups and government officials, drew applause and cheers as they spoke.

Here are some of their comments:
Adam Chaskin, executive director Sidney Albert AJCC, said, “The Albany JCC has been serving this community for 101 years and has always been a safe place for everyone in the community to come and grow spiritually, mentally and physically. We are the ‘kitchen table’ of the community where everyone can gather around and have safe and meaningful conversations with each other no matter our backgrounds.”

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan said, “The Albany JCC has been a longstanding part of our community, a good neighbor and a place that is accepting of people from all races, religions and walks of life. I urge all of our residents to join me in extending my steadfast support for the Albany JCC.”

Rabbi David Eligberg, president of the Capital District Board of Rabbis and spiritual leader at Temple Israel, Albany, said, “The Torah demands that our response to those who would bring darkness into our society is to become a prism into which God’s light radiates into the world. And that standing together we create a cordon of kindness, which unites us.”

Imam Genghis Khan, Muslim Community of Schenectady and the Schenectady Clergy against Hate said, “You have been allies of Muslims in America through all our hard times now and before and we stand with you. From a synagogue in Texas giving its keys to a mosque that was burned to other acts of kindness, you’ve always been there for us and we stand for you. To the JCC — you serve everyone, the entire community, children of all faiths and un-labeled faiths.”

Pastor David Traynham, president of the  Albany NAACP and pastor, New Horizons Church, Albany, said, “We are united  as a region, and as people of various backgrounds, cultures and colors, We want every person to know, that as a religion, we have bound ourselves together as one, and let it be known that prejudice and hatred will not be tolerated in our city against any people’s group.”

Assemblywoman Pat Fahy of Albany said, “I was inspired by the “rapid response” and the overwhelming outpouring of support for the Sidney Albert JCC from interfaith leaders and the broader community across the Capital Region. It truly speaks to the character of a community I am proud to be a part of… I sent my kids to daycare here.”

Rabbi Deb Gordon, spiritual leader of Berith Sholom in Troy, said, “I am grateful we are here today because of what unites us —it is a commitment to justice to peace and to stand up against hate.”

Beth Martinez, Anti-Defamation League (ADL) education director for the Albany region said, “At ADL we know that the way to combat bias is through education. That’s why we are so excited to have 50 schools in the capital region enrolled in our No Place for Hate program, which recognizes schools for combating bias, bigotry and bullying. We know that love and acceptance can overcome hate.”

“Arranged in just 36 hours, the interfaith vigil  for the Albany JCC showed what kind of community we are— one community standing together. It was inspiring to see so many people of different faiths,  parents and children, holding signs supporting the JCC, said Shelly Shapiro, director  of community relations of the Jewish Federation of Northeastern NY, and an organizer of the vigil.

The FBI is investigating the 65 bomb threats that  hit JCCs and Jewish federations in three waves throughout January. The latest string of threats, targeting 17 JCCs across the country, occurred Tuesday, Jan. 31. The first two days of bomb threat hoaxes were Jan. 9 and 18.



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