They came together on a Sunday night to talk about antisemitism, racism and discrimination.

The Rev. Michael Nabors of Second Baptist Church, who organized the event, said there have been nearly 50 antisemitic incidents reported around the country since the start of November. “From the desecration of Jewish tombstones to open threats about attacking synagogues, the hateful vitriol has grown more and more dangerous,” he said.

Reverend Rosalind K. Shorter Henderson of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church leads a gathering of clergy at Beth Emet Synagogue. Credit: Richard Cahan

Rabbi Andrea London, who hosted the event, said the Chicago Commission on Human Relations recently stated there has been a 71% increase in hate crimes reported this year. “Crimes against Blacks and Jews is leading the search,” she said. “We have witnessed antisemitic statements by celebrities, attacks of Jews on the streets, normalization of antisemitic and racist comments on news outlets like Fox News and from our former presidents without these being condemned by their supporters.”

It was a sobering night.

Most of the 100 people who filled the main sanctuary of Beth Emet Synagogue were from Evanston’s two Jewish synagogues, Beth Emet and the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation, but there were clergy members from at least seven other churches.

A crowd of about 100 rises to the music. Credit: Richard Cahan

“I was going to say we are not here today to mourn and condemn bigotry-fueled murders, but to work to prevent more hateful violence,” said London, Beth Emet’s rabbi. “Then this morning, we woke to the news of the terror attack on the Colorado Springs LGBTQ club that has left five dead and 19 wounded.”

Perhaps the most stirring personal statement was delivered by the Rev. Grace Imathiu, senior pastor of the First United Methodist Church, who said, “This evening I am here to name antisemitism as a form of evil that cannot be tolerated. That is anti-God.”

Imathiu said her religious education included many antisemitic references. She was taught that the Old Testament is considered an account of the “God of Rage” and the New Testament an account of the “God of Love.”

Clergy members pose after the gathering. They are, clockwise from bottom left, Rachel Weiss of the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation, Laura Harris-Ferree of Grace Lutheran Church, Michael Nabors of Second Baptist Church, Andrea London of Beth Emet Synagogue, Sharon Weeks of Second Baptist Church, Howard Friedland of JRC, TJ Williams-Hauger of Lake Street Church and David Eber of JRC. Credit: Richard Cahan

“Why do I participate in these little, small, innocent, antisemitic ways,” she asked.

She vowed to support her Jewish colleagues. “I want my Jewish brothers and sisters to simply know that they are safe and not just with words. But if need be, [I will] put myself in harm’s way. And harm’s way for me means also having difficult conversations with my own denomination and my own tradition.”

Nabors called out the actions of “young, influential African Americans” like entertainer Ye (Kanye West) and basketball star Kyrie Irving. He said words lead to actions that are violent and separatist.

“Let it go on record that such hatred is not acceptable, will not be tolerated and will be met with the full fury of righteous indignation,” Nabors said. “Let us also go on the record that a great majority of the Black community condemns every form of antisemitism and views such hatred the same as it does racism and every other form of bias against others.”

Nabors said he will never tire of coming together and speaking out. “I’m getting tired of evil and hatred. I’m getting tired of antisemitism. And I’m getting tired of racism and homophobia. I’m getting tired of anti-immigration. I’m getting tired of the anti-Muslim sentiment that’s in this country, the anti-Asian American sentiment that’s in this country. I’m tired of ugliness.”

An ensemble put together by the Second Baptist Church sung at the event. Credit: Richard Cahan

Sunday’s meeting counters recent news, he said. “That is why tonight is so important my friends and neighbors in Evanston. Our unity and solidarity is a visual and powerful response to hate-filled people.”

Rabbi Rachel Weiss, of the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation, ended the night with a benediction.

“So let us show up, proud and dissatisfied with the state of hatred in the world,” she said, “and let us be angelic troublemakers that challenge the flip rhetoric and dangerous ideology that we are not all created equally in the divine Image, for surely we are.”

Richard Cahan

Richard Cahan takes photos for the Evanston RoundTable. He also is publisher of CityFiles Press, a small but mighty media company that believes in the power of words and pictures. You can reach him at...

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