By Jon Marks, Rachel Kurland and Marissa Stern
The message was universal at “Stand Against Hate,” the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia-sponsored rally at Independence Mall earlier today: There is no place for hate in whatever form it’s expressed.
Against the backdrop of Independence Hall, that message was delivered by one speaker after another: If one of us is attacked, all of us are attacked. Close to 5,000 people heard that message, according to Steven Rosenberg, chief marketing office of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.
“When you target someone because of what they look like or who they love or who they pray to, we are all less safe,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said. “That’s why together we stand united. As they did in that building behind us, we stand up to intolerance.”
Jewish Federation printed and passed out hundreds of signs that read “Stand Against Hate,” the rally’s slogan.
A few dozen other people brought handmade signs, some reading “Make America Smart Again,” “#ImpeachSessions” and “coexist.” There was one p___y hat in the sea of kippahs.
❗️WOW. What an incredible day. If you weren't here – check out the full #StandAgainstHate live video here! ???????? Thank you to the thousands of community members from all walks of life, for showing up and showing your support.
Posted by Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia on Thursday, March 2, 2017
The rally remained peaceful, and a quiet fell on the surrounding square as attendees and passersby listened intently to the speeches.
American flags and rainbow flags waved during songs of unity led by choirs; young students jumped on each other’s shoulders to sing and dance in circles to show their support.
Darin Katz, director of the upper school at Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy, was one of several teachers who organized eight buses to bring nearly 300 students to the event.
“This was an extremely important event for us as a school to attend,” the chemistry teacher said. “As a Jewish day school, it’s our obligation to teach our students to stand up to hate, to welcome all faiths, all creeds, all religions and most importantly to be proud of our Jewish history and to be proud of their Jewish heritage.”
Katz said the rally gave him a sense that as long as the Jewish community “profess love over one another, we can overcome hate.”
Shapiro later echoed that view, saying it is incumbent upon the leaders of the country to press the issue. His fellow speakers — including Gov. Tom Wolf, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and leaders of all religious denominations — agreed.
“We are all here to take a stand against those vile actions,” Wolf said. “They are hate crimes against the Jewish community and hate crimes against each and every Pennsylvanian.
“Pennsylvania was a place founded centuries ago with the idea that all are welcome here, that everyone can practice his or her faith as they see fit. We still live by that grand idea today.”
Kenney followed by telling how he grew up in a South Philadelphia neighborhood that was a third Jewish.
“The denigration of the cemetery was on them and on my childhood and my neighborhood — and it’s cowardly,” he said. “We are all members of the Jewish community today. All members of the human race today.”
That theme continued when speakers of other religions took the podium.
“I’m not here as a representative of the Muslim community,” said Imam Kenneth Nuriddin of Philadelphia Masjid and a member of the Religious Leaders’ Council of Greater Philadelphia. “I’m here mainly today because these are my friends; people I’ve worked with for a number of years. As a people, we are all here together today standing in a shared freedom space.”
The outpouring within the community made an impression on one non-Philadelphian.
“It was amazing to see the unity and hear so many non-Jewish leaders and elected officials come together and speak about how this is not only an attack against Jews but against any American,” said Amir Sagie, deputy consul general of Israel, representing New York Ambassador Dani Dayan. “It’s a presentation of what society is all about — standing for one another and being united against any hate and bigotry.”
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