By Andrea Fox
On Dec. 14, the Interfaith Council of Western Mass held a gathering entitled, “United in Faith, Standing in Solidarity with our Neighbors” at the Islamic Society of Western Mass. Concerned with “the post-election rising tension and hateful actions against Muslims and Jews,” this program brought together over 300 people of various faiths from across the Valley. I attended with our Rabbi Saul Perlmutter and about a dozen members from Congregation Sons of Zion.
The program opened with a prayer from Imam Wissam Abdul Baki, a welcome from Islamic Society of a Western Mass. President Dr. Zubair Kareem, a welcome from Dr. Martin Pion, President of the Inter Faith Council, a situation update from Attorney Tahirah Wudud, Board member of CARE, and comments from many others including Bob Marmor, interim director of Jewish Federation of Western Mass., and representatives from Temple Sinai of Springfield, Springfield Technical Community College, West Springfield Public schools, the AG office, and several churches.
Speakers shared strategies for promoting community-wide safety and emphasized the urgency to be vigilant and to speak up for our neighbors of targeted faiths such as Muslims and Jews. They offered support and shared personal stories of what has happened to them since the more public increase in hate related offenses. Many of the stories also spoke to the misogynistic assaults against women. Some of the volunteers who participated in the clean up on Mt. Tom after it was defaced with anti-Semitic and xenophobic graffiti also spoke.
While the gathering had a serious tone, there was a lot of hope as people expressed their commitment to building community through action by promoting unity, awareness, safety, and trust. After the formal program, members of the mosque served a delicious dinner with desserts for everyone. We are blessed to have such a strong, open, active, and welcoming interfaith community in Western Massachusetts. It was truly very powerful to be among such loving and courageous people.
Andrea Fox is president of Congregations Sons of Zion in Holyoke.