by Justin Udo and Anita Oh
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Hundreds of people gathered on Independence Mall for a Stand Against Hate rally on Thursday, in a show of support for Philadelphia’s Jewish community.
In the wake of vandalism done to more than 100 tombstones at a local Jewish cemetery, and an increase in bomb threats at Jewish gathering places across the country, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, and hundreds of people of different faiths met on the Mall to say those actions are unacceptable.
“Pretty horrified, why would people do that?” asked Jennifer Goldbloom of West Norriton.
“It’s an attack on those that are gone and on Jewish memory, and for Jews that memory is very important. It’s who we are,” said Charles Ryba of Abington.
“I am proud to stand in solidarity with Jewish, Muslim, Christian and all faith leaders whom have united against the recent rash of hate in our communities and country,” Wolf said in a statement. “The silver-lining in all of this is that we have seen the best of Pennsylvania in response to these disgraceful acts – people of different background coming together to support each other and stand united against discrimination, hate and intimidation.”
People at the rally sang songs and held different signs saying things like “let us build a world of loving kindness.”
“We’re standing against hate, and we’re standing up for a community that won’t be knocked down,” said one person attending the rally.
The Philadelphia Holocaust Remembrance Foundation said in a statement they were “appalled” at the vandalism that took place at the Mount Carmel Jewish Cemetery.
“Like so many Philadelphia residents, Americans, and citizens of the world, we were appalled by the unconscionable hate that led to this act of cowardice against the meekest of victims — the graves of those who cannot fight back,” said Jake Reiter, a board member at the Philadelphia Holocaust Remembrance Foundation.
“The history of Jews in Philadelphia dates back centuries, and our 300-year-old bond has helped the Jewish and broader communities thrive. As the cradle of American independence, Philadelphia and Independence Mall have long served as the embodiment of tolerance for all religious groups, serving as a beacon of light, even in a world too often consumed by hate. This rally — and especially the outpouring of support from government officials, religious leaders of all faiths and the community at large — affirms Philadelphia’s status as the City of Brotherly Love, and serves a reminder to all that we must unify to conquer hate.”
The reiterating statement from many of the people who attended the rally is “targeting of any faith is an attack on all faiths.”
“It’s just not who we are. It’s unacceptable in Pennsylvania. It’s unacceptable anywhere,” Wolf told Eyewitness News.
There is a $69,000 reward leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people behind the act of vandalism.