In recent days, two separate bomb threats, both unfounded, have been called into the Albany Jewish Community Center. Activists and religious leaders, government officials, concerned citizens and neighbors gathered early Thursday evening on the grounds of the Whitehall Road facility in a show of solidarity.
"As a region, and as people of various backgrounds, cultures and colors, we want every person to know, that as a religion, we have bound ourselves together as one, and let it be known that prejudice and hatred will not be tolerated in our city against any people's group." That's David Traynham, pastor of New Horizons Christian Church and board president of the local NAACP chapter.
About 300 people turned out for the "We Stand with the Albany JCC Against Hatred" vigil, braving the cold in support of the uptown community pillar. The Sidney Albert JCC has been evacuated twice in this new year after bomb threats were called in.
Assemblywoman Pat Fahy was at the JCC the days the threats came, as they did at dozens of other JCC's nationwide. No bombs were found. All of the incidents are under investigation. Fahy says the calls have had an unsettling effect. "I share the outrage with what is going on. I've belonged to the JCC here for many years. My kids went to daycare here, and this is just so over the top. I think what's going on nationally is setting a negative tone..."
Executive Director Adam Chaskin told the crowd that the community must take a stand. State Senator Neil Breslin echoes that stance. "We're going to be at a lot more of these, I'm afraid, but we all have to stay together, and not go into our own individual silos. You know Dave, the last day I've been thinking about that German poem, by the Lutheran Minister, you know 'they came for the workers and I was silent. They came for the Socialists and I was silent, and then they came for the Jews, and then they came for him and there was no one left to say anything.’ That's why we all have to stay together."
Imam Genghis Khan of Schenectady Clergy Against Hate aimed his message to those behind the bomb calls. "We are not a people of hate. We don't propogate hate, but we're a people of clarity. And we can clearly tell you that what you're doing is wrong. There is no definition of God, there is no definition of any spiritual worship that makes what you're doing justified or right or anything that you can contract in your mind. So do not be a person of hate. Do not be people of hate. As the Quran teaches, ‘do not let the hatred of others drive you to do what is unjust.’"
Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, who has been outspoken on issues of immigration, sanctuary and community, picked up the bullhorn: "We stand for the JCC because the JCC is us and we are the JCC. This city will not tolerate hate. We will not tolerate fear. And we will stand with the JCC. Anything that they need they will get from this community with a hear. Thank you so much for coming out..."
"I told the crowd today that this is an act of terrorism. They're trying to scare us, and they'll win if we stay away," said Sheehan.