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No Hate. No Fear.

New Haven commemorates the liberation of Auschwitz with a rally promoting love 

By Paul Bass

NEW HAVEN – New Haven faith and political leaders united Sunday evening to send a message of love and determination amid days of hate.

They did so at a two-part “No Hate In New Haven” event on the west side of town.

The event was organized by Mayor Justin Elicker’s office and the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven, whose CEO, Judy Alperin, served as emcee. The event coincided with similar commemorations worldwide timed to Monday’s 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazis’ Auschwitz concentration camp and to International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The event took place at a time of rising antisemitic violence throughout America and the world, as well as an uptick in hate crimes in general.

“This is a dark time in our country and in our world,” said longtime New Haven Jewish community leader Sydney Perry, a former Federation CEO.

She addressed the crowd at the first stop for the event, the Holocaust memorial at the corner of Whalley and West Park Avenues. Completed in 1977, it was the first such memorial created on public space in the U.S.

Perry noted that the memorial contains ashes from Auschwitz. “This is a sacred place,” she said.

The sea of traffic on Whalley Avenue parted (with the help of New Haven police) so the crowd could cross and walk up to Congregation Beth El Keser Israel (BEKI), where the second part of the event took place. Hundreds of people gathered in the basement social hall there to hear 15 community leaders take turns vowing to stand up to antisemitism and other forms of hate.

The strongest statement came not in words, but in presence: the religious and ethnic diversity of the groups represented by the leaders who spoke. Religious leaders included the Rev. Steven Cousin of Bethel AME Church, Yale Islamic Chaplain Imam Omer Bajwa, New Haven Board of Rabbis & Cantors President Michael Farbman, and Varick Memorial AME Zion Church Pastor Kelcy Steele. 

“We serve notice to fear, hatred and bigotry: Love lives here,” declared Steele. “Today we serve hate its eviction papers. New Haven will be a No-hate zone.”

In addition to Mayor Elicker and Fire Chief John Alston Jr., New Haven government leaders and elected officials who spoke included (from left) U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, whose father fled Germany for the U.S. in 1935, State Sen. Martin Looney, State Rep. Pat Dillon, Alder Eli Sabin, and U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro. DeLauro served as chief of staff for then-Mayor Frank Logue when the city worked with a group led by Doris and Ed Zelinsky to create the Holocaust memorial at Whalley and West Park. (Looney also worked on the project as a Logue administration staffer.) DeLauro spoke at length about current and historic antisemitism. She also referenced today’s “demonization” of racial minorities and immigrants at the “highest levels of government” in the U.S.

“The Jewish community has endured,” Police Chief Otoniel Reyes the crowd. “You have taught us what perseverance looks like. You have taught us what love looks like, what unity looks like.”

Speakers lined up for a group photo after the event – minus Blumenthal, who had to leave to return to Washington in time for the resumption of President Trump’s impeachment trial.

This article is reprinted with permission of The New Haven Independent (www.newhavenindependent.com.)

Main Photo: Political and faith leaders were guest speakers at the New Haven Holocaust commemoration.

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