By David Brand
A diverse collection of community and faith leaders representing various parts of Queens joined Borough President Melinda Katz and a handful of elected officials Monday night to condemn a recent string of hate crimes, including the murder of 11 Jewish worshippers inside a Pittsburgh synagogue.
The leaders from Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and other congregations gathered in front of Borough Hall and held candles in a vigil against hate.
“We’re here today, all this diversity, all these religions [to] say to everyone who wants to promote fear in this world, ‘America won’t have it. Queens won’t have it,’” Katz said. “We are stronger every day because of our diversity and immigration.”
Councilmembers I. Daneek Miller and Donovan Richards and Assemblymembers Alícia Hyndman and Ed Braunstein stood near Katz at the podium and read the names of the people who were shot and killed inside the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh Saturday.
Eva Hoffman, a social worker from Bayside, said she felt compelled to attend the event.
“I couldn’t not come,” said Hoffman, who is Jewish. “This is my community — Pittsburgh, Queens or Israel.”
Karen Bass, a school administrator from Forest Hills, said she went to college with a man who worships at the Tree of Life. She learned from Facebook that he was not harmed in the anti-Semitic attack.
“What happened was horrific and it was a shock to to the Jewish community,” Bass said. “And it was personal.”
Members of the Sikh World Parliament held a banner that said “We stand in solidarity with [the] Jewish community. An imam also expressed his support.
Eagle publisher Michael Nussbaum, president of the Queens Jewish Community Council, also spoke to condemn the hatred that fueled the Pittsburgh attack.
“You are not born with hate,” Nussbaum said. “We have to teach ourselves and our children that hate brings us down.”
Mariela Palomino Herring, chief of the Queens District Attorney’s Hate Crimes Bureau said county prosecutors “said in solidarity with all victims of hate crimes.”
In a statement, DA Richard Brown said, “We simply will not tolerate acts of violence, intimidation, or property destruction, in which people are intentionally targeted because of their race, color, ancestry, national origin, gender, religion or sexual orientation.”
Israel Consul General spokesperson Almog Elijis told the Eagle that the attack left her “heartbroken.”
“I never thought something like this would happen during my posting,” Elijis said. “For [Israelis] it is a domestic issue. We are a family and American Jews an extension of the family.”