The Cowardice of the Night

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By Sayde J. Ladov

We have read, seen and heard of a disturbing increase in the incidence of acts of vandalism and hatred involving Jewish Community Centers and cemeteries in the past few weeks. Acts of intolerance to Muslims and vandalism to their mosques have also been seen with frightening incidence.

These acts, in Missouri, in New Jersey, in New York, in Delaware and in Pennsylvania, among other locations, can only be described as acts of hateful cowardice.

To desecrate a cemetery by vandalizing it is one of the lowest forms of subhuman activity. The final resting places of our loved ones, regardless of color, faith or creed, are sites that must be protected. Every civilized culture has recognized the sanctity and inviolate nature of these places.

Community centers, which act as gathering places, as places of safety and community, are one of the cornerstones of a society that prides itself on being open and welcoming. These centers create programs to feed the poor, provide companionship to the lonely and care for young children.

Unfortunately, acts demonstrating anti-Semitism and other forms of religious intolerance are not new. They rear their ugly head from time to time when clouds of evil darkness swirl around us. We are prompted, then, to ask ourselves, “Why bother saying anything? It has all been said before.”

The answer to this question is simple: No matter how many times we speak, we must speak again.

It is, and must always be, a hallmark of our actions as Americans to be strong in our condemnation of acts of hatred and violence. We cannot stand by and allow those who lurk about in the cover of darkness to destroy these places of peace.

If we stay silent, then those who engage in these acts will believe that they have gotten away with their actions, and they will be encouraged to commit such actions again. Like the night crawlers that they are, they will lurk in the dark waiting for their next opportunity.

There is nothing brave or courageous or right in waiting until dark to do damage to these sacred spots. The more that we allow these actions to take place, the more we allow darkness to spread across the face of our country.

We have read the words of our mayor and our governor and of other elected leaders who decry these acts of cowardice and have been heartened by the basic decency of these men and women. Their words and actions show that they deserve their positions of leadership. Regretfully, not all leaders have been as strong in their condemnation.

We have seen how Muslim groups have come together to raise funds to restore the Jewish cemeteries that have been vandalized. We are heartened by their words and actions. They truly demonstrate the value of community.

If America is to continue to be the shining city on the hill, we must work to make sure that the actions of all Americans match the words that America has broadcast to the world. Those words should be simple: Hatred has no place here. Cowardly acts of violence will not be tolerated. We are better than those whose hatred would destroy who we are.

We must each commit ourselves to working to make certain that the letter and spirit of our Constitution, which makes it a fundamental right to practice our religions freely and without impediment, is not subverted.

We call upon others to speak out against these acts of wanton destruction. We call for action to repair and not to destroy. We ask that others join us in making donations to help repair the damage to the Mount Carmel Cemetery and to other Jewish cemeteries recently vandalized, as well as those Muslim places of worship that have been similarly vandalized. We thank those who have already stepped in and stepped up.

We call upon our fellow Americans to remember the need to say, “Never Again!” Now is the time to bring daylight to the actions of those who would destroy what America and Americans have built.

Sayde J. Ladov is president of the Louis D. Brandeis Law Society Foundation and A. Michael Snyder is the chancellor of the Louis D. Brandeis Law Society.

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