At Elkins Park synagogue, leaders gather to denounce hate

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia-area leaders gathered at an Elkins Park synagogue Thursday to denounce hate.

The goal of the gathering at Congregation Knesset Israel was to send the message that Pennsylvania is no place for hate, and leaders started off with a moment of silence for the police officers who were hospitalized as a result of Wednesday night’s shootout.

Before getting to that message, State Sen. Art Haywood recognized the officers involved in the North Philadelphia shootout. 

“I do want us to take a brief moment of silence for those who were engaged in the shootout in Nicetown,” Haywood said. 

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He then made a connection between hate crimes and gun violence. 

“You’ve got the biggest massacre of Jewish Americans, several months later followed by the biggest massacre of Hispanic Americans. It’s not like that’s the end,” he added. 

But Robin Burstein with the Anti-Defamation League of Philadelphia says hate crimes don’t begin with guns — they begin with jokes or other behaviors that normalize a viewpoint of hate.  

“Some of it is as simple as name calling or a swastika etched into a school desk,” Burstein said. 

Burstein says hate crimes in the first half of this year have increased 18% compared to the first half of last year, and Rabbi Lance Sussman of the congregation says he’s feeling the impact here in his own congregation.

“At the beginning of every service I now announce, ‘This exit leads directly outdoors.’ I never had to make an announcement like that in 40 years.”

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