@AllieSez #IHateHateCrimes

by Allison Begalman
In the first two weeks of January, there were four attacks targeting synagogues in northern New Jersey. These crimes were so serious that, according to a Politickernj press release, they prompted Congressman Steve Rothman to formally request an investigation by the F.B.I.
“I’m appalled by these acts of anti-Semitism,” said New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in a video posted on his official Youtube channel.  “They have no place in our society.”
In the past few months, a string of hate crimes have been perpetrated in both New Jersey and New York. These attacks include       firebombings, assaults and the    defacing of property with hate symbols. The targeted citizens, specifically Jews, Muslims and other minorities, have begun to fear for their safety.
Even New York City, the second-most diverse city in America,  according to CNBC, is seeing its share of hate crimes.    Firebombing attacks against Muslims occurred in Queens, while swastikas have been drawn on homes and public establishments on nearby Long Island.
Fanwood and Scotch Plains have also seen the effects of race-based hatred. In 2009, a NJ-based hate group called the League of American Patriots distributed racist flyers across the two towns. According to Rabbi Joel N. Abraham of Temple Sholom in Fanwood, our towns reacted quickly to the incident. Civic and school leaders, law-enforcement personnel, local clergy and concerned citizens met to address the issue.
From these initial gatherings grew an organization called Social Justice Matters (SJM), whose   mission is to achieve “greater      social justice by exploring the values,  opportunities and    challenges arising from our  diverse communities” (socialjusticematters.org).
“I hope to live in a community in which such acts of hate are met with mass spontaneous repudiation and which has such a reputation that no group would think it fertile ground to sow seeds of hate,” said Abraham,    a founding member  of SJM.
SJM continues to spread its message by holding open meetings throughout the year. The group sponsored an event on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, featuring a film about the American Civil Rights movement and a subsequent discussion. More recently, Peter C. Harvey, Esq., the former New Jersey Attorney General, spoke at a meeting on Feb. 21 about several issues of social justice, including the problem of community and racial profiling.
Despite these efforts and those of groups such as the international Anti-Defamation League and the NAACP, hate crimes continue in all parts of the country. The most difficult part to comprehend concerns the motives behind these acts. “Seeing these crimes makes me upset for the people who commit them because it shows that they have nothing better to do than target minorities,” said junior Gabrielle Sabony. “As a Jewish teen, I am sad to see the hatred that some  people have.”
Why do hate crimes happen? Psychologist Michael Zito, Ph.D., explained that the people committing these crimes “tend to have a lack of empathy and a strong mistrust for a group in which they’d like to perpetrate the hate crime.”
To counteract hate crimes, in February the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), implemented a security-awareness campaign called “If You See Something, Say Something.” According to the JFNA, it “emphasizes the importance of reporting suspicious activity  to  local  law  enforcement authorities.”
Heightened awareness of potential illegal activity,   however, is only a stopgap  measure. “We can never    really prevent these crimes, but we can promote equality and tolerance  through education,” said senior Michael Mannino.
As history has taught us, hatred cannot be cured overnight. Nevertheless, it is essential that we fight back against it with the hope     that this will one day eradicate hatred altogether.