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“How to do you respond to hate with love”, Iowa Rabbis respond to recent Hanukkah attack

After an attack on a Hanukkah celebration in New York over the weekend, we're hearing the reactions of local Jewish community leaders and the steps they're taking to ensure safety. Details coming up tonight on KWWL News at 10 pm. MORE:

Posted by KWWL on Tuesday, December 31, 2019

CORALVILLE, Iowa (KWWL) -- An attack that injured five at a Hannukah celebration in New York over the weekend was one of more than 1,800 incidents of antisemitism in the US this year, according to the anti-defamation league.

Now we're hearing from local Jewish community leaders about those numbers.

As Esther Hugenholtz, Rabbi at Agudas Achim Congregation brings out one of their cherished Torahs, there is something pressing on her mind.

"How to do you respond to darkness with light, how do you respond to hate with love?," said Hugenholtz.

She just finished celebrating Hanukkah, a gathering that almost turned deadly for the Jewish community in New York.

"We have not experienced any direct anti-Semitic activity in this area, thank God. We did over the last few years experience an uptick in neo-nazi and white supremacy leafletting in this area which is also concerning," said Hugenholtz.

Her synagogue has increased security and they're not the only ones to do so. Temple Beth El in Duqubue has, too.

"We haven't experienced any violence towards us, thank God and yet in this climate, you just don't know. Whenever we have a service a Friday night service I call the chief of police to make sure they run extra patrols by our Temple," said Allen Garfield, Beth El Congregation vice president.

They've also hired off duty police officers to join them during services inside the Temple. However, both leaders say there is a deeper conversation to be had.

"This is happening to Jews around the world, not only the United States but around the world. We're targets of hate crimes again at a level we haven't witnessed in decades and this is a great cause of concern for me," said Garfield.

"We try to balance those two realities that we have to keep ourselves safe and protect ourselves but also continue to be open and welcoming and build those deep relationships with our none Jewish neighbors and friends," said Hugenholtz.

Relationships that both Hugenhotlz and Garfield say could be the key to rooting out hate and misunderstanding.

"It's really tempting for people to say well, in that case, let's pull back a little and I think we actually really have to work hard spiritually and emotionally to override that impulse and say I'm going to wear my yarmulke and Star of David and go out into the world boldly and bravely," said Hugenholtz.

"The strength of people is in their strength, it's in our unity it makes no difference whether you're Jewish or not," said Garfield.

Both congregations encourage others to join them during a Friday night service to learn more about the faith. They hope to create more understanding of Judaism and create allies in the community.

Ashley Neighbor

Reporter, Cedar Rapids

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