Good afternoon. I have just returned from offering the invocation at Governor Cuomo’s State of the State address. I’d like to thank the Governor for giving us the opportunity to participate and express our thoughts at such an important event. It is really a great honor.
It is not our norm to interact with the media and the world at large, which is why I have not, until today, spoken to the media. However, the overwhelming and ongoing support from the Governor and all elected officials across the spectrum has been so monumental, we felt the time had come where we I must make a public statement to express our thanks and our thoughts.
First and foremost, I would like to point out, and please take note, that for many Orthodox Jews, our congregation included, there is much to be rejected in the contemporary world’s embrace of freshly minted dogmas in assorted moral realms. My participation at the State of the State does not in any way imply my unilateral support of all current issues up for debate. That being said, today is neither the time nor the place to dwell on any negatives. We hope for the opportunity to at some point, discuss these moral issues with the Governor. Rather, at present, we wish simply to celebrate his kind embrace of our community and of all those who suffer at the hands of the hateful.
Our community is still reeling in the aftermath of the horrifying Chanukah attack and the subsequent trauma. Mr. Yehosef Neimann, who is a senior beloved congregant and family friend, remains in dire condition and is in great need of our prayers; his family needs our ongoing support.
But, despite all the horror, we hold strong and stand tall in our faith in the Almighty. Especially in recognizing His Divine intervention that miraculously allowed the attacker to be subdued by our heroic synagogue manager, Mr. Josef Gluck.
This horrifying event is a divine call for soul searching, rather than finger pointing and accusations; let us reflect inwards on how we can eradicate evil from its source. When the forces of hatred strike, we must counter with the power of love and goodness towards all humanity. When darkness hits, let the forces of light prevail.
Although we, the Hassidic people of Rockland and across New York State, may look different, dress differently, speak a different language, and choose to educate our children according to our traditions, we, like the many diverse people of Rockland county are all created in the image of G-d. I stand here before you stretching out my hand for peace and unity. Let us put our differences aside and bigotry behind us and work side by side to eradicate hatred.
To all our neighbors, fellow Rockland County residents and elected officials, I implore you: let us take this moment and create change, unite in reconciliation and start a new page with love and peace. Our diversity is what makes our country so great. We cannot allow seeds of hatred to destroy that. Together, we must leave the past behind and work towards a peaceful future.
I implore you: please do not politicize this tragic event. Do not attach the horrors that have taken place to any political agendas, be it domestic or abroad. I appeal to fellow Jews, especially our youth, please do not allow this tragic event to arouse feelings of reprisal or the idea of taking up arms in self-defense. We are certainly obligated to take the basic measures and precautions for the safety of our homes, our congregations, our schools and our public places. However, ultimate law and order must remain in the trained hands of our dedicated law enforcement professionals, who on a daily basis place their lives in potential harm’s way to ensure our safety and security.
By emphasizing and promoting brotherhood and peace and utilizing the basic precautionary security measures in conjunction with our law enforcement officials, G-d willing our communities will be much safer.
I would like to take the opportunity to thank the Attorney General’s office, the Sheriff and the Police Department. They have committed all their available resources to ensure the safety of our homes and synagogues, schools and public places, throughout our communities and neighborhoods.
Finally, I would like to thank all elected officials, community activists, friends, and members of the media for your ongoing and heartfelt support. There are no words to express our gratitude.
I would like to end with a prayer to the Almighty: Father in heaven, Creator of the universe, please help us eradicate evil and hate. Help us to lift and promote the banner of brotherhood and peace.