WASHINGTON – Community leaders and representatives of D.C. government shared messages of encouragement and of community support at a public forum on anti-Semitic hate crimes at the Washington Hebrew Congregation Thursday.
Each speaker gave words of encouragement to the group of more than 100 people who attended the town hall.
Rev. Thomas L. Bowen, director of religious affairs for D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, attended to represent the mayor’s office.
“I am here because our mayor is concerned about what happens in our city,” he said.
Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, advised people who were Jewish to be strong and to not be deterred by recent hate-related incidents that occurred across the country this week or in the last couple of months.
“The Jewish community needs to remain steadfast,” Halber said. “This is a call to community.”
He urged people to be courageous, especially because individuals have used hate crime to “terrorize.”
“One of the worst things we could do … is to give them the result that they wish,” he added, referring to perpetrators of anti-Semitic hate crime.
One of the repeated messages of the forum was encouraging people to communicate with law enforcement if they witness a potential crime, even if it doesn’t seem to be a serious crime.
Carole Zawatsky, CEO of the Edlavitch D.C. Jewish Community Center, said Jewish people can find comfort in knowing that they’re “not alone” because police are available to respond to the incidents.
“We have the support of local and federal law enforcement,” Zawatsky said. “District 2 police, they’re our friends!”
Jocelyn, who didn’t want to give her last name because she works for the government, said she attended the town hall for the opportunity to participate in dialogue with others about anti-Semitic hate crime.
“I came here to be in community and to discuss theses recent demonstrations of hatred in a safe space with a diverse group of concerned people,” said Jocelyn, a Cleveland Park resident who is Jewish.
She said she was contented to hear about the interest of D.C. government in the issue of hate crime.
“I was happy that the mayor’s office and the police are working on this,” she said.