Community rallies in solidarity with Bloomfield’s Temple Ner Tamid
More than 1,000 people of all faiths, races and ages gathered at Temple Ner Tamid on Thursday, Feb.2, for an interfaith rally against hate in light of the attack that left the Bloomfield community shaken. Supporters packed the main sanctuary, the overflow room and the lawn outside the synagogue. Police officers directed hundreds of cars down Broad Street as people from neighboring communities stood in solidarity with Ner Tamid.
The doors of the synagogue looked a little different than usual, with security personnel using metal detectors to ensure the safety of the congregants.
Nevertheless, the spirit of love and community filled every crevice of the synagogue as neighbors and members of the congregation warmly greeted one another with hugs and smiles. The service opened up with an interfaith choir singing “Lord Prepare Me to Be a Sanctuary.” The crowd joined in as the choir belted the lyrics “Lord prepare me to be testimony, sweet and simple, tried true…”
Ner Tamid became a living testimony that even in the face of hate, “love always wins,” said Cary Chevat, one of the organizers of the event and a member at Ner Tamid.
Elected officials, religious leaders and community activists stood before the congregation and assured them that they have their full support.
Senator Bob Menendez, U.S. Reps. Mikie Sherrill and Bill Pascrell and Bloomfield Township Mayor Mike Venezia were just a few of the political figures who joined in.
They didn’t hold back in addressing the hate that targeted the Bloomfield synagogue early Sunday morning.
“Antisemitism has tragically never left us,” Pascrell said. “It's live, it’s here and it is growing my friends,”
Menendez called the attack “cowardly” while also praising the strength of the Ner Tamid members.
“A community united against hatred in all of its forms is a community that is stronger, more resilient, more of the beloved community that my late colleague, Congressman John Lewis used to talk about,” Menendez said. “He's talking about the love community and tonight, I think we're closer to that beloved community.”
Despite the somber reason for the gathering, speakers elicited laughter from the crowd through some lighthearted banter. Representatives from different religious groups – including Imam Kevin Dawud Amin of Masjid Al Wadud of Montclair and the Rev. Thomas Korkuch of Park United Methodist – came together to pray and give the Jewish community words of encouragement. Different activist groups, like Montclair NAACP, AAPI Montclair, Bloomfield Pride LGBTQ and New Jersey Alliance for Immigrants, all spoke.
Mary Valentine, co-president of Bloomfield Pride LGBTQ, recalled the times where Rabbi Marc Katz and the congregation of Ner Tamid showed their support for the LGBTQ community in Bloomfield.
“Ner Tamid has always been an ally to Bloomfield Pride,” Valentine said. At the height of the pandemic, Valentine informed the audience that it was Ner Tamid that made sure that the organization still had a place to gather.
President of the Montclair NAACP, Roger Terry, shared historical context on the relationship between the Black and Jewish communities, saying, “If you remember back in history, the freedom fighters came in all colors, there were Jewish brothers and sisters, walking along with us throughout all of the trials and tribulations of the incidents that were going on back in the '60s.”
Throughout the evening, speakers stressed the diverse communities in New Jersey and the beauty that happens when the diverse communities come together. “We stand shoulder to shoulder as human beings no matter what type of situation comes up, and that's what we do.” Terry said.
For people like Lisa Blakenship, a resident of Bloomfield, it was heartwarming to see so many people show up for the synagogue that so many of her loved ones attend.
“It was wonderful to be here with people from every background and faith leaders, politicians and people in the community,” Blankenship said. “I was brought to tears on several occasions so it really does send a message that love is stronger than hate and any kind of form of hate against any of us, it's against all of us.”