By COLlive staff
In a show of interfaith unity, leaders from different faiths gathered on the steps of New York City Hall Tuesday afternoon to call for security funding for houses of worship.
Organized by Councilman Chaim Deutsch, the rally was attended by dozens of community members and activists representing a variety of ethnicities and religious backgrounds, including Rabbi Eli Cohen and Rabbi Chanina Sperlin of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council (CHJCC); Devorah Halberstam, co-founder of the Jewish Children’s Museum; and Rabbi Avrohom Leider, Director of Ahavas Chesed.
“In the wake of tragedies in Poway, Pittsburgh, New Zealand, and Sri Lanka, it is clear that our houses of worship are vulnerable to threats,” said Deutsch. “New Yorkers of faith deserve to be safe as they worship – it’s as simple as that. Houses of worship need a layer of protection to keep congregants safe, such as an armed guard. Every time a tragedy occurs, every City and State leader rushes to the nearest house of worship to extend thoughts and prayers to the victims – but where will these leaders be NOW, as we ask them to step up proactively and fund security?”
Councilman Kalman Yeger, who this week is introducing a bill calling for armed security guards at houses of worship, also participated in the rally.
“Government has certain very basic obligations,” he said. “The most predominant of all is to keep its citizenry safe. We have to know we will be protected in our houses of worship, in our sanctuaries of peace. We have seen synagogues, churches and mosques under attack all over the world, in the United States, and here in New York. We know that the Mayor cares deeply about our security. Our bill will allow any house of worship to hire a private security guard, submit for reimbursement, and have the City pay the bill. This is our City and our money, and safety in our houses of worship is our most fundamental right.”
Crown Heights activist Devorah Halberstam spoke about the murder of her son Ari who was murdered because he was a Jew steps away from City Hall on the Brooklyn Bridge coming back from a prayer vigil for the Rebbe. Halberstam also spoke about the importance of having security at houses of worship just as we have the TSA after 9/11, we need the security today.
Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo said, “It’s a proud moment when we can come together as leaders and advocate for better protections at our houses of worship.” She was joined by Councilman Ruben Diaz, Sr., Councilman Mathieu Eugene, and Councilmember Mark Treyger.
Among the speakers were Eric Goldstein, CEO of the UJA Federation of New York; Father Myles Murphy, pastor of the parish of Our Lady of Victory and St. Andrews in Lower Manhattan; and Kashif Hussain, Muslim community leader and founder of the Pakistani American Youth Society.
“At this time, our houses of worship are not in need of First Responders,” said Michael Miller, CEO and executive Vice President of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York. “What is vitally needed are First Protectors! We thank Councilmembers Deutsch and Yeger for their initiative which calls for the City’s funding of houses of worship security.”
Community and faith leaders in attendance included Rabbi David Zweibel, executive Vice President of Agudath Israel of America; Rabbi Benjamin Goldschmidt of the Park East Synagogue; Lt. Adeel Rana, president of the NYPD Muslim Officer’s Society; Rabbi Joseph Potasnik – executive vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis; Josh Mehlman, Chaskel Bennett, Leon Goldenberg, and Shimon Lefkowitz of the Flatbush Jewish Community Coalition; Joseph Rosenberg, executive director of the Catholic Community Relations Council; Linda Sidaka of Moms on a Mitzvah; Avi Krakauer, assistant executive director of the JCC Marine Park; Avi Greenstein, director of the Boro Park JCC; David Heskiel, NYPD Clergy Liaison; Mark Meyer Appel, founder of The Bridge Multicultural Center; Maury Litwack, Chief of Staff of the Orthodox Union; Faye Zakheim, co-Chair of the United Task Force; Rabbi Pinchus Hecht of Mirrer Yeshiva; and Jacob Abadi, representing Bnos Leah Prospect Park Yeshiva and Yeshivat Darchei Eres.