By DAVID PORTNOE
When the Katz JCC in Cherry Hill received a bomb threat during one of the waves of bomb threats against JCCs and Jewish day schools and had to be evacuated on Feb. 27, Christine Berk, a non-Jewish native of Cherry Hill who is currently dividing her time between Cherry Hill and New York, decided that she had to do something about it. Through email and word-of-mouth, she organized a rally the following the day in front of the JCC at the corner of Springdale and Kresson Rds. People of all ages held up signs and encouraged passing motorists to honk to show their solidarity with the Jewish community.
“I wanted the community to be able to show its support. I want the children and staff here at the JCC to feel safe,” she said at the rally.
The show of support exceeded her wildest expectations. “I expected 25 people, and there are at least 200,” said Berk.
The rally attracted Muslims, Christians, Jews, and others who just wanted to show solidarity and stand up against hate. Several area synagogues sent contingents.
Farhat Biviji, a Muslim member of the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom and the Jewish Catholic Muslim Dialogue said that being at the rally was a show of interfaith harmony and brotherhood. The rally, she said, was really a grassroots effort. “The Jewish community is my brothers and sisters. If something hurts them, it hurts me,” she said.
Pat Sandrow, a Catholic member of the Jewish Catholic Muslim Dialogue, said she was outraged by the bomb threat against the JCC as well as the cemetery desecration in Philadelphia. She said that she knows her fellow Catholics are outraged as well. “Bishop Sullivan sent out a statement yesterday expressing support for the Jewish community,” she said at the rally.
Also in attendance was Cherry Hill Mayor Chuck Cahn, who said that he was glad to see people of differing faiths and differing backgrounds standing together for their community. Pointing to the previous day’s bomb threat, he said that the ignorance and hate happening in the world is affecting Cherry Hill. “There is no place for hatred in this town or other towns,” said Cahn. “I’m concerned for our residents, our town, and for the United States,” he said.
Sally Zeiberg, who is active with the Jewish Community Relations Council and Jewish Family & Children’s Service, grew up in York, PA. That town’s JCC was also one that had experienced a bomb threat. “People really need to stand up. The hatred has to stop,” she said.