MOUNT LAUREL, NJ (CBS) — Two faith communities met for an open dialogue in Mount Laurel, New Jersey Sunday after what they are calling recent acts of hate and bigotry.
That includes vandalism of the Mount Carmel Jewish Cemetery in Philadelphia and threats against Jewish community centers nationwide.
“My heart broke when I heard about all of these incidents, including vandalism of cemeteries, swastikas and really unfortunate language. You would think in 2017 we’d move well beyond this but we haven’t, so we need to do everything in our power to educate our children, to celebrate diversity,” said rabbi Benjamin David of Adath Emanu-El, a Jewish congregation.
Members of Adath Emanu-El and the Ahmadiyya Muslim community of Willingboro held a joint roundtable discussion called “Dialogue For Our Time” Sunday morning.
They also talked about how to teach their children to appreciate diversity and to respond to hate.
One father recounted anti-semitic remarks against his young son at school.
“Some kids were bullying him, and one of the most disturbing comments I remember hearing was that he was referred to as ‘oven material.’ It makes me feel terrible that anyone would be referred to someone as that, let alone my own child,” said Norman Godfrey.
Imam Rizwan Khan of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community says the political climate has also increased what he believes is an attack on his faith.
“There’s no doubt there’s an attack on Islam and Muslims, because the rhetoric of the campaign and election we just went through is a clear testimony to that. Maybe before it could be said it was paranoia, but now it’s something there that is as clear as day,” Khan said. “The moderate majority are not as vocal about their very ordinary opinions, and it is a very ordinary opinion to be accepting, to be inclusive. It’s not something you feel you need to shout and to propagate. But right now, we’re living in an environment where that very much needs to be voiced, to be said loudly. That’s one of the reasons we’re getting together right now.”
It’s still not clear who is responsible for the vandalism at Mount Carmel Jewish Cemetery, but there is a $69,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.