Tim Pierce

The following is adapted from an address that was to be delivered Sept. 9 in Willimantic’s Memorial Park as Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur approached.

Let’s have no hate, no violence, not in our hearts, homes, or communities.

We have a common concern about the growing hate and threats of violence in both our community and the larger communities in Connecticut. We gather this afternoon to work together to bring an end to this time of division, meanness, threat, and violence.

I am a first generation American on my father’s side, and he and his family survived genocide in hiding. I have grown up with small town values and Judaism that have instilled active solutions to bigotry and violence. The growing rates of antisemitism, racism, homophobia, and blind othering of groups, vulnerable and distinct enough to target, call to us to act to combat this.

This is a time to stand together and look out for one another and to speak up against any member of our community who is subjected to hate and intimidation. We can grow out of our isolation and cast a wider tent of safety and together we can change our society.

Rabbi Yael Levy’s prayer sustains me: May I have love, may I have peace, may I have safety, may I have well being.

I believe hate stems from fear, simplistic persecutory thinking, and finding someone or some group to objectify and blame as the source of one’s suffering. Hate blindly holds vulnerable and visible groups as responsible for evil and wrongs in the world. Hate grows where there is lack of empathy for all of our human family. So as it grows, it can be healed by listening, asking respectful questions, and learning about the histories that have been distorted by stereotypes.

An example of the hate is the antisemitic belief that Jews are “globalists and part of an international conspiracy.” It can be busted by understanding the history of migration due to pogroms, inquisitions, and other government expulsions and threats.  Jews moved to be safe and to survive to practice our faith and raise families without threat. We did not choose to be so dispersed, and we are certainly not part of any large conspiracy.    We are diverse in culture, language, color and sexual orientation.  So we are not a single type to stereotype. Emerging Jewish communities include Africa, South America, Asia and the Iberian Peninsula.

Here is my antidote list to combat hate, and you may have some ideas to add as well:

  • Value empathy and learning about people who are different from you.
  • Look for common interests and nuances that dispel simplistic perceptions.
  • One’s hurts and those of another can be held at the same time, without comparison nor competition.  Just as we all have suffering, we all have strengths and innate goodness.
  • Stand up for yourself, and stand up for your human family members. If you experience or witness the prejudice act to yourself or someone different, speak up. Let them know they are not alone.
  • Be a daily ambassador of tolerance and peace.
  • Report all incidents of hate and violence to a trusted person, NAACP, Anti Defamation League, town hall, Police, fire department and schools.
  • No hate no violence, not in our hearts, not in our communities.

We are a Sanctuary City since 2017. We have a nearly 40-faith Windham Area Interfaith Ministry to secure housing, employment, clothing, furniture and hope. Our NAACP Chapter is the most diverse and inclusive in the state.

Here in Willimantic, we formed the Windham United to Save Our Healthcare, a grassroots 13-community group coalition that secured a law that will allow a birthing center in our community.

We have Third Thursdays and Shaboo Stage events, and a Frog Bridge  that showcase the beauty of our many cultures. We also have a CCAR Recovery Center, and a Windham High School “Hero in Town” essay contest to counter media shaming of drug addiction.

Here in Willimantic, we have a People’s Corner where Fridays healthcare, environmental and social justice issues are presented.

Here in Willimantic, we hold an End Hate Across the State rally for Northeast Connecticut.

We have more ways to promote peace in our community:

Here in Willimantic, we are advocating a Citizen’s Review Board to work with law enforcement to address racial profiling and promote racial tolerance.

Here in Willimantic we are advocating for a “Fair Rent Commission” to protect affordable housing units.

Here in Willimantic, let’s strengthen our Sanctuary City. Together we will make our community more safe and loving when we all are aware and active to combat hate.

Let us close with the inclusive version prayer of Rabbi Yael Levy:

May we all have love
May we all have peace
May we all have safety
May we all have wellbeing.

Shalom, salaam, peace to each and all of us.

Brenda Buchbinder, a licensed social worker, lives in Willimantic.