ATLANTIC CITY — “We ask that we will be united and unified in times other than in grief,” prayed the Rev. Latasha Milton of Asbury United Methodist Church during an interfaith gathering in support of the Jewish community Tuesday at City Hall.

“We are all a part of this body, regardless of what our religious affiliation may be,” Milton said. “The God we follow ... believes in love, is love.”

She led the prayer after reading the names of the 11 people shot to death Saturday at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, killed by a man reported to have shouted, “All Jews must die!”

“We came here today as we did a short time ago to mourn the victims of hate and violence at a church in South Carolina, gunned down after their Bible studies,” said Councilman Kaleem Shabazz, a member of Masjid Muhammad Mosque in Atlantic City.

Local clergy held a similar recent gathering on the anniversary of the Charlottesville white supremacist riot.

“We stand here today united ... to say hate has no place here. To our Jewish brothers and sisters, we say, ‘We understand, we care, we love you and we will not step back from unconditional support for those who experience anti-Semitism, racism, Islamophobia or any other odious vile belief that threatens our humanity,” said Shabazz.

Dozens of religious, community and political leaders gathered and pledged to participate as one body in actions that start with a Thursday night commemoration of the 1938 Nazi attack on Jews known as Kristallnacht, and continue with gatherings through Thanksgiving and the religious holidays.

“We will work to ensure we don’t need to padlock our churches, synagogues, mosques, supermarkets and movie theaters,” said Rabbi Jonathan Kremer, of Shirat Hayam synagogue in Ventnor. It is the synagogue in which Tree of Life Rabbi Hazzan Jeffrey Myers was once a cantor. Myers was on site and survived the attack.

Kremer said people must speak to each other, not shout; and must interact with others, not stay separate.

There will also be a community interfaith Thanksgiving service 7 p.m. Nov. 19 at Asbury United Methodist in Atlantic City toward that end, Kremer said.

Whether optimistic or less so, all speakers stressed the need for good people to take action against hate and intolerance.

“We must not despair. We are making progress,” said Doug Stanger, an attorney representing the Anti-Defamation League, who said the internet is feeding and spreading hate.

He said the ADL opened an office in California’s Silicon Valley and is working with software companies to be more proactive in removing hatemongers’ rants, and have gotten good results.

But he said it isn’t enough to ask for action from companies and politicians.

“Each one of us have the ability to effectuate change,” Stanger said, encouraging people to join organizations that are confronting hatred and violence, get involved in politics, religious groups and civic organizations.

“We need to show up. We will fight this until it is won,” said Stanger, encouraging people to attend services this weekend of any denomination. “This is the good fight. We are all engaged in it. Encourage everyone to get the word out there and get active.”

The Rev. Dawn Fortune of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the South Jersey Shore in Galloway Township expressed impatience with the moderate responses that have not stopped mass shootings.

“We are past the time for compromise,” said Fortune. “There is no room for moderation. We have come to the place where we must understand that speaking reasonably no longer works. ... There is no compassion for the vulnerable. There is only fascism and resistance.”

Fortune said haters have been emboldened by “a champion in the White House.”

“Where is the middle ground on mass shootings?” asked Fortune. “How many is too many? How many worshipers must die before we agree that gun control is necessary? How many dead children are enough for us to act?”

County Executive Dennis Levinson called anti-Semitism “an incurable disease that mankind has had for thousands of years.”

But it is the need for hatred that is the true disease, he implied.

“It’s something we haven’t found a cure for. Will we ever?” Levinson asked. “Jean-Paul Sartre ... wrote that if the Jews didn’t exist, the anti-Semite would invent him.”

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Contact: 609-272-7219 mpost@pressofac.com Twitter @MichelleBPost

In my first job after college got paid to read the New York Times and summarize articles for an early online data base. First reporting job was with The Daily Record in Parsippany. I have also worked in nonprofits, and have been with The Press since 1990.

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