Senator Menendez Speaks at JCC of Paramus Memorial Service for Victims of Pittsburgh Synagogue Mass Shooting

Senator Menendez Speaks at JCC of Paramus Memorial Service for Victims of Pittsburgh Synagogue Mass Shooting

Saturday hate crime deadliest attack on Jews in US history

PARAMUS, N.J. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez joined Rabbi Arthur Weiner and Congregation Beth Tikvah Sunday evening at a memorial service for the victims of Saturday’s vicious mass shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, which the Anti-Defamation League said was likely the deadliest attack on Jews in the history of the United States.

 

“I won’t mince words,” said Sen. Menendez. “The mass shooting that struck the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh on Saturday morning was a vile act of anti-Semitism in its most despicable form.

 

“In this country, we enjoy and must protect our freedom to gather and express one’s faith, regardless to which God we pray—no one can take that right away,” he added. “We refuse to be intimidated.  We refuse to live in fear.  We refuse to let the heinous act of one man deter the absolute right of this community and all communities to gather in prayer, in peace, in love.”

 

 

In closing, Menendez said: “I stand with you tonight, as I always have and always will.  Together, we will reject the politics of hate. We will reject the politics of fear. We will stand up for hope, and for decency, and for our common humanity – and we will never back down. As we remember and pray for the lives tragically taken too soon, in the spirit of Tikun Olam, let’s not forget that it’s our collective responsibility to make this world a better place and tomorrow a brighter day.”

 

In a study released earlier this year, the Anti-Defamation League reported a 57% increase in anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. in 2017, the highest tally that the Jewish civil rights group has counted in more than two decades. It found 1,986 anti-Semitic incidents last year – up from 1,267 in 2016 – the highest total since 1994 and the largest single-year increase since the group began collecting this data in 1979.

 

Senator Menendez Remarks Prepared for Delivery:

 

Thank you to the Jewish Community Center of Paramus and Congregation Beth Tikvah for having me. I’m always pleased to join this community.  I just wish tonight it wasn’t under such tragic circumstances. I’m grateful for the friendship of so many of you. We’ve stood together through thick and thin, and now, we must lean on each other like never before.

 

Tonight, we gather out of mourning and heartache. I won’t mince words. The mass shooting that struck the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh on Saturday morning was a vile act of anti-Semitism in its most despicable form.

 

I’m grateful to law enforcement for acting quickly to save lives. And yet, eleven innocent Jews are dead. At least six others – including first responders -- are injured. Families have been shattered. Children traumatized. Lives forever changed.

 

And I doubt I’m the only one in this room wondering, when is this dark chapter in our nation’s history going to end?

 

In recent years, we have seen hate rear its ugly head in communities across America, from Charleston, South Carolina to Charlottesville, Virginia, to last week in Jeffersontown, Kentucky, and this Saturday in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The families gathering for Shabbat services this past Saturday and to rejoice in the bris of a newborn son were exercising a right guaranteed to all Americans by the First Amendment of our Constitution.  The right to religious freedom, and the freedom to worship without fear.

 

That’s what this individual intended to do through this violence: send a message of fear.

 

Such an event invokes a history of intimidation and violence against Jewish communities. And when it takes place alongside a documented increase in hate crimes and a spike in anti-Semitic incidents -- the desecration of Jewish cemeteries, swastikas painted on park bridges and schools, the defacement of Jewish community centers and synagogues, including right here in New Jersey – we are reminded, yet again, that anti-Semitism is never dead, but dormant and all too easily awoken by those who stoke hate.

 

This is something the Jewish community knows all too well.  Rhetoric has the power to bring people together, or to drive them apart; power to appeal to our better angels or to fan the flames of fear, hatred and violence.

 

But tonight we do not gather out of fear.  We gather out of mourning, yes, but also out of defiance. Out of resolve. Out of hope.

 

We will raise our voices and rejoice in the positivity and the inclusivity fostered by Jewish communities the country – including right here in New Jersey.  All of us —friends and neighbors, law enforcement and faith leaders, elected officials and educators —have a responsibility to reject hatred in all its forms.  

 

We will not let bigotry and harassment intimidate this community. Not here, not now, not ever.

 

As your Senator, I stand with you. I support you. And you have the power of my office behind you.  I stood with you last year in the wake of several bomb threats – and secured billions of dollars in additional funding for nonprofit security to protect Jewish institutions and community centers across our country.

 

And I stand with you tonight. Because diversity is one of America’s greatest strengths and it has always made New Jersey strong.

 

This is something that I’ve been passionate about for decades. Something that I’ve fought for going back all the way to my days in the State Legislature, when I passed New Jersey’s first hate crimes law.  And in Congress, it took years of advocacy to pass the Matthew Shepard Act, which finally made it a hate crime to commit violence against anyone based on their race or religion or sexual orientation.

 

And if we need a new law to combat hate in the 21st century, we will write it and we will fight for it until it lands on the President’s desk.

 

Nor will we give up in our fight to restore sanity to our nation’s gun laws and make sure those who harbor hatred in their hearts do not have access to weapons of mass murder.

 

We must remain vigilant. We must remain resolute. We must remain hopeful. And given the showing here today, I am confident that that together will drown out this latest wave of anti-Semitism.

 

In this country, we enjoy and must protect our freedom to gather and express one’s faith—regardless to which God we pray.  No one can take that right away.  We must recognize that an attack on ANY faith community is an attack on EVERY faith community.

 

Our houses of worship are places for prayer. They are places for learning. They are places for community. They are NOT places for fear. They must be places we feel the safety and security of freedom’s embrace.

 

We refuse to be intimidated.  We refuse to live in fear.  We refuse to let the heinous act of one man deter the absolute right of this community and all communities to gather in prayer, in peace, in love.

 

I stand with you tonight, as I always have and always will.  Together, we will reject the politics of hate. We will reject the politics of fear. We will stand up for hope, and for decency, and for our common humanity – and we will never back down.

 

As we remember and pray for the lives tragically taken too soon, in the spirit of Tikun Olam, let’s not forget that it’s our collective responsibility to make this world a better place and and tomorrow a brighter day.

 

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