More than 300 people, including Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-Dist. 5) gathered in Livingston on Sunday for a rally against antisemitism, provoked by the Molotov cocktail thrown at the front door of Temple Ner Tamid in Bloomfield and a spike in recent threats against Jews.
The Strength and Courage Against Antisemitism rally was sponsored by the town’s synagogues — the Conservative Temple Beth Shalom; two Orthodox shuls, Congregation Etz Chaim and the Synagogue of the Suburban Torah Center Congregation; and the unaffiliated Temple B’nai Abraham, all in Livingston, as well as Congregation B’nai Jeshurun of Short Hills, which is Reform, and the Livingston Clergy Association.
A suspect has been arrested and charged in the Molotov cocktail incident. The bottle broke but did not cause any damage to the building.
Political and civic leaders also came out to denounce anti-Jewish acts of violence.
Mr. Gottheimer of Bergen County, a member of the House Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Antisemitism, addressed the crowd. He was joined by several state legislators and Livingston Township officials. “I have been on the receiving end of antisemitic attacks,” he said. “So when I see a surge in swastikas in schools and communities, what’s happening in our college campuses and on social media, a Molotov cocktail thrown at a temple, it’s personally gut wrenching.
“There is no room for indifference in the fight against terrorism.”
“Livingston is a town of diversity and inclusion,” Mayor Michael Vieira said. “We are a town with residents who represent many different nationalities, races, cultures, beliefs and religions. We are a community that comes together to support one another in times of crisis and despair.”
The rally also was directed at the theft and abandonment of a Livingston Board of Education school bus and the discovery of a journal inside the bus that contained notes about jihad and language aimed at Jews and law enforcement, according to federal officials. A Saudi national has been apprehended and charged in the incident.
The rally also follows many reported incidents of swastikas and messages containing antisemitic language found both at Livingston High School and the town’s Heritage Middle School.
“There was a great diversity and community support — Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Hindu religious leaders,” B’nai Abraham’s Rabbi David Vaisberg said about the rally. “Very few people have a tolerance for these absurd, awful incidents of antisemitism that we have experienced.
“We’re fortunate that we know it’s bad apples and not systemic, in the way it has been in the past.”
Rabbi Simeon Cohen of Temple Beth Shalom said it’s rare to have all five Livingston-Short Hills synagogues come together for a single cause. Other civic leaders were there too, he added.
“I think people were uplifted and hopeful,” Rabbi Cohen said. “Even though this is a very, very dark and difficult time for Jewish people, they felt support, not only from the Jewish community but from the entire Livingston community, which was wonderful to hear.”
Rabbi E. Samuel Klibanoff of Congregation Etz Chaim said, “It was great to see so many shul members join so many community members on short notice to come out and have our voices heard.
“Hopefully next time this show of unity will be to celebrate goodness and light in the world, instead of having to band together to battle hatred and evil.”