Last month, vandals struck at the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro by painting obscene graffiti and leaving pork products, which Muslims do not eat. The mosque opened in August of 2012.
The Jewish Federation of Nashville quickly expressed its shock over the vandalism and empathy with the Muslim community to Dr. Saleh Sbenaty of the Islamic Center. Abbie Wolf, community relations director at the Federation, spoke at a community gathering at the center the day after the vandalism was discovered.
The following are her remarks:
“I’m Abbie Wolf, Director of Community Relations for the Jewish Federation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee, and we soundly condemn and decry these horrific acts of vandalism.
“My grandparents came to this country seeking freedom from religious persecution and dreaming of the ‘golden land.’ They worked in sweatshops, opened a fabric store in New Jersey and a restaurant in Cleveland. Their lives weren’t easy, but they loved their new country where religious freedom flourished. The laws of this land gave them that freedom, and protected them from coercion or discrimination. Unfortunately, it didn’t protect them from hate.
“My grandparents came to America rooted in the Jewish value that all people are created in the image of G-d – all people, of equal and infinite value, no exceptions and no preferences, for we are all created with a spark of the divine.
“I greatly appreciate the chance to speak this evening, for it’s my duty – and everyone else’s duty – to denounce senseless acts like these. Silence is not an option.
“There is no legitimate place for such despicable and repugnant behavior or belief in our community. There is no place in America for bigotry against Islam.
“In the great tradition of the three monotheistic faiths, we continue to teach that we all are created in G-d’s image. As it says in Leviticus 19, ‘You shall love thy neighbor as thyself.’ But that certainly wasn’t the case here yesterday.
“We – all of us, all children of creation – are all responsible for one another. Part of that responsibility is to publicly denounce those who spew hatred and who commit acts like these. We must chase out the bad and welcome more tolerance, more love.
“Again, thank you for the chance to speak tonight. The Jewish community was, and is, profoundly grateful for the support of the Muslim community earlier this year when multiple bomb threats were called into the Gordon Jewish Community Center. We are proud to stand with you now and in the future.
“I want to share with you one last thing. When I told my 11-year-old daughter, who is here tonight, what happened at the mosque, she sat down and cried profusely. I asked her if it would be better for me to not tell her things like this – that maybe she needs to be a little bit older. She said, ‘I do want to know about things like this. I don’t want to be in the dark, but sometimes being in the light hurts.’ I told her these acts were done at night, in the dark, and only by letting in the light can we see each other and stand together.” •