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New York. Mayor Adams Calls For Unity, Peace, And Safety With Religious Leaders. Video

Pastor Gilford Monrose, Faith Advisor, Office of the Mayor: That’s our theme song. All right. Good morning to everyone.

It is surely a good morning in New York City because we are alive, we are well, and we are grateful for all of the religious leaders who are here today. This is not just another press conference for us, this is a moment of reality and truth about how faith leaders who have gathered here today, one thing that we know for sure that what we have in common is that we are different.

And you know, our difference in our diversity, we must display unity to those that we serve and to the community in which we serve as well.

I’m Pastor Gil Monrose. I am the faith advisor to the mayor of New York City and run the Office of Faith‑Based and Community Partnerships who have direct oversight to help with conversations in this difficult time as we go through these moments in our city.

And so we talk about this is the season of light, and I think that I read somewhere that someone said that if we forget the fact that we are one nation under God, we are a nation gone under. And I think for us is that as we see all of the things that are happening in New York City and across the country, the FBI stats talks about the fact of how hate crime is up; we don’t have any polling that shows what love is doing in our city.

So, for us today, really and truly with all of the religious leaders who are here, it is a snapshot of who we are as a city; and irrespective of what is happening, these are angels of light. And I think that when we talk about light, we must recognize that there is darkness. And so today we want to start by showing the light to brighten the dark part to our shared future.

And for this we are here today and we trust and pray that as we look at all of the things that are happening, even with all of our religious diversity that we do understand that in this city we are known for being different but also understand that our shared society is what carries us. New York City is known for that.

And as we go through these difficult times ahead, we want to say that there is definitely hope in the fact that faith leaders are really showing the way in these times. I’ll now bring Mayor Eric Adams to the podium to have some remarks.

Mayor Eric Adams: Thank you. Thank you, Pastor. And I think that’s a powerful statement that you’ve made that we don’t measure how much love is spread out throughout our city, we sometimes lean into the negative. But when I think about what Chabad Houses are doing across not only the city but across the country and just providing places for people to rest.

I think about the various food pantries that are currently run by our religious leaders, our churches, our synagogues, our mosques. I think about what our Sikh leaders are doing where they provide food every day for f those who are in need, feeding thousands of people. I became aware of that during Covid‑19. And I think about Muslims giving back, and how they join me on Wednesdays giving out food and throughout the week feeding people who have fallen on hard times.

There’s so many symbols and substantive things that people of faith are doing. They have become the social and moral conscience of our city and our entire country. And it is highlighted when we have those cases of hate, but I think we do need to lean into the displays of love, of individuals giving out socks and coats and clothing, feeding individuals, people who are volunteering their time helping us with the migrants and asylum seekers.

There are just so many ways we are displaying how great we are as a city, and today is another symbol of that. Last night marked the first night of Hanukkah. I was in Washington at the nation’s Hanukkah celebration meeting with different individuals who celebrate Hanukkah and acknowledged the celebration.

And it was a cross section of people. There was not only people of Jewish faith that were there, there was a cross section of Americans that came to Washington D.C. This festival of lights reminds us that every act of light has the power to spark hope and we should never forget that. And I am really thankful that here in this city we embrace that concept and philosophy.

And that’s why it warms my heart that I have, you know, even two of our electeds here, Borough President Reynoso who represents the largest borough in the City of New York, and Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar who you find criss‑crossing the city bringing together various groups, not allowing the boundary of just her assembly location to get in the way of bringing us together.

We know we are built on religious and racial tolerance. That’s who we are as a city, a city of immigrants and the city of diversity, a city where people from all over the world can live side by side in harmony regardless of nationality, regardless of where they pray.

Here in New York City, that belief is core to who we are; and in this moment of heightened tension around the globe, it is more important than ever that we stand together as one united against the rising tide of hatred and religious intolerance.

And we’re seeing it and we’re feeling it. It is bringing a level of apprehension. It doesn’t matter if you wear a hijab or a yarmulke or a turban. The individuals who represent the various groups, a cross around their neck, some form of symbol of their religious belief, they don’t have to actually experience the hate but when they hear about the hate it brings a level of fear and intimidation, and that is why we’re here today.

And just last night, just before the first evening of Hanukkah began, there were shots fired outside of Temple Israel in Albany. And just yesterday, the menorah of the Chabad Sunset Park in Brooklyn was vandalized. These are the acts that an individual can do that can cascade throughout our entire city, our state and in our country.

So, I want to be clear: everyone in our city, in this state and in this country has a right to practice their faith in peace. Here in New York City, we will ensure that right is protected. Since the terrorist attack last… In Israel on October 7th, the NYPD has been on heightened alert; and as we celebrate Hanukkah, we’re going to continue. We have implemented pre-planned measures for elevated security around public menorah displays and at all lighting ceremonies and events that are taking place throughout the city.

Because we have seen a rise in hate across the nation, and sadly, even in the city we have seen Nazi symbols and antisemitic graffiti on synagogues. And those Nazi symbols are not being used in a manner that those original religious beliefs of the Sikh and other beliefs use them, they’ve been used as a symbol of hate. The swastikas are being displayed with their original use to be displayed as hatred tools coming out of Nazi Germany.

We have seen vendors and subway riders be racially harassed for being Muslim. We have seen a Gandhi statue destroyed at a Hindu temple, and angel statues on churches be defaced and removed. And the numbers don’t lie: we have a 250 percent rise in ethnically motivated hate crimes in New York City over the past two months, a 150 percent percent rise in antisemitic hate crimes, and a dramatic rise in hate targeting Muslims. And we’re seeing even some of our Sikh brothers and sisters going through some form of harassment.

Those who spread hate, they have one mission and one goal: they want to divide us. They want us to cancel religious holiday gatherings. We have already seen menorah lightings be canceled in Virginia, and we have incidents here in the city where some venues are against holding various religious celebrations and other forms of displays of our faith.

That cannot happen here. New York City will not be put in a place where fear and hate dictate how we live. I have been clear for weeks: while New Yorkers have every right to express sorrow about the incidents that are playing out on the stage of the international arena and events around the world through peaceful protests, that absolutely does not give anyone the right to harass others or to spread hate. It does not give anyone the right to deface, target or harass religious institutions and businesses.

And I want to continue to be extremely clear that those who commit these evil acts will be brought to justice. As mayor, I tackle these crimes incredibly seriously. No New Yorker should ever feel targeted because of who they are or what they believe, and our communities must feel at home, feel safe and feel free to practice their faith in New York City.

This holiday season, let us come together in unity. Whether we are Sikh, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, part of any religion or practice, no religion should feel that they cannot do it in this city of diversity, because no matter where we are from, who we love, what religion we practice or what language we speak, we’re all bound together by one thing: we’re New Yorkers, and we must stand united. Thank you.

Pastor Monrose: Thank you so much, Mr. Mayor, for those words. And as faith leaders, as we stand behind those words we really see the need for having a positive outlook during this holiday season that encompass many faith traditions. We’ll have some angel of light who will be coming forward, religious leaders. We have Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz who will come, followed by Imam Shamsi Ali, and then by the Right Reverend Father Thomas Zain, in that order.

Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz, Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun: Good morning. I want to first begin with a few words of gratitude. I want to begin by thanking Mayor Adams for his leadership, his leadership in taking on hatred is in particular meaningful to my community, which has seen a 400 percent rise in antisemitism in the past few weeks.

And Mayor Adams, you have made it clear that on your watch you will make a priority — “the” priority — of fighting antisemitism and racism and xenophobia. And not only that, Mayor Adams, you have made it clear that your goal is to bring everyone together, to break bread together, and to bring out the beauty of the wonderful mosaic of New York; and for that, I thank you, Mayor Adams.

I want to also thank the NYPD — who are in different places around this room — and I want to just say it in one word: you are our heroes. People think that heroes are sometimes celebrities or athletes or actors, but actually heroes are people who put on a uniform every day and put their lives on the line to save others and to help others.

And I have to tell you, last week, Friday, there were 15 bomb threats that were issued in this city to synagogues; and on Saturday morning, when I walked to synagogue there was a uniformed policeman outside, and it made such a difference to me. And I walked over to him and I shook his hand and I thanked him, because the NYPD is there to protect me, it’s there to protect us, it’s there to protect all New Yorkers. And I cannot express enough gratitude to the NYPD for what they do. They are our heroes.

But then I want to talk about what this morning is about. This morning, of course, is finding light amidst darkness. First of all, darkness has to be taken on directly. There are purveyors of hatred, there are advocates of division, and they need to be called out.

But that alone is not enough. If we don’t bring light, darkness will always win. And there’s a beautiful idea that one great rabbi, Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, once put forward, and it’s obvious and it’s simple and it’s brilliant at the very same time: he said that a little bit of light can get rid of a lot of darkness.

And that’s what we’re trying to do here today. As faith leaders, we are coming together and we’re each bringing our candle; and by lighting a candle, even in the coldest and darkest night, you bring light into this world. And if we can get all the faith leaders to bring light and then we can get all New Yorkers to bring light, there will be no more darkness. And that is our dream. Happy holidays to everyone.

Imam Shamsi Ali, Jamaica Muslim Center: Good morning. Shalom and Salaam and peace to all of you.

Let me begin by wishing our Jewish friends a happy Hanukkah, and congratulate all New Yorkers on this holiday season. May these holidays bring more peace, justice, reconciliation, joy and happiness to all of us.

Dear friends, oftentimes when you come together in any good time, it’s great, but coming together in a deeply challenging moment is even greater. And this is what makes New York New York, that despite all temptations can divide us, we can still come together. This is the nature of this city.

Oftentimes we misunderstand that the greatness of this city is because of Wall Street or because of the fact that this is the home that is the headquarters of the United Nations, or maybe because of the skyrocketing buildings in Manhattan.

In my humble opinion, it is because of the bridges that we have: the bridges that connects not only the five boroughs of the city but connect the peoples of the boroughs. And this is the tradition that we must continue to preserve: the tradition of coming together.

There’s a verse in the holy Quran that reminds us again and again — and I’m sure you have heard this many times — that we created you from a male and a female, and we have made you into many nations and tribes so that you get to know one another. That ‘Arif’ in Arabic language, getting to know one another, is the process of building those bridges: bridges of understanding, bridges of mutual love and compassion, bridges of cooperation and partnership; and beyond that, that we must be courageous enough to fight for one another and to defend one another.

In the last few weeks we have seen that Islamophobia and antisemitism and anti others are rising. And let me once again underline that for me, Islamophobia and antisemitism or any anti to anyone or any group is our shared enemy, and we can all be victims.

And therefore, my friends, we must pick up, because it is sufficient for the evil to thrive when the good people do or say nothing. And once again, we remind ourselves, an attack to any or anyone is an attack to all of us; and therefore, we must continue this partnership, once again fighting for one another. Thank you very much.

Reverend Thomas Zain, St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral: Like my predecessor, I want to thank the mayor and the NYPD for all the hard work that they do for bringing us together and protecting us throughout the city. The theme of light is a predominant theme for our city and for us as Christians during this holy season of Christmas, of Christ’s nativity.

From the darkness of the shortest day of the year — which is coming soon — came forth the light. One of the main hymns, “the” main hymn for our Eastern Orthodox churches during Christmas talks about Christ bringing light into the world and actually calling him the sun — S‑U‑N — of righteousness. This play on the darkness of this time of year and coming out into the light as the season and as the days get longer is predominant during our Christmas season.

When I drive back through New Jersey toward New York, one of the first things you notice when you’re coming east is the lights of New York City. I’m sure many of you have experienced that. And it’s like, we’re home. This is indeed our home, as Muslims, as Jews, as Christians, myself a Christian from Middle Eastern background, and other faiths that are gathered here today, a home to all of us were we can live together in peace and harmony.

And from time to time because of the events around the world — which we are all deeply passionate about and many times differ about — it causes problems here for us not as religious leaders per se but for our people, because they are affected by these destructive acts which you have heard about today.

And it is up to us during these times to come together, to pray together, to be together, to work together to help our people, to feed the poor. One of the great saints of our church, St. John Chrysostom, who lived in the fourth century, said, the penny that you give to the poor is a greater act than raising the dead.

It is through these efforts that we can be together, to work together, to show our communities and to show the city our united front with the leadership of the mayor and the city government in order that the light of New York City can shine as an example to the rest of the country and the world. Thank you.

Pastor Monrose: Thank you. And now I’ll call up the Brooklyn Borough President, Antonio Reynoso, followed by Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar for some remarks.

Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso: Thank you all. I want to keep this as short as possible. I’m obviously here in solidarity, and I do want to say that in times in Brooklyn when we’ve needed help, when a gas goes off in a NYCHA development in Coney Island, when we called Muslims giving back, they didn’t ask whether the tenants in that NYCHA development were Muslim.

When we needed gifts for kids in homeless shelters or poor kids in schools or day care centers, we called the rabbi to give us gifts for Christmas, and he came through. Yesterday, I, as a Catholic boy from Brooklyn, was able to assist in lighting a menorah in front of Borough Hall. That only happens here in New York, only in New York.

It is what makes us special, it is what makes us great, and I want to make sure that we continue in those traditions. I also want to say, with Mayor Adams, a lot of folks might take too much time talking about what makes he and I different. When we’re together, we talk about what makes us the same and the things we agree on.

And one example of a thing we agree on is we both don’t like rats.

 And the mayor has done an amazing job with the Department of Sanitation to do just that and address that issue through containerization, which is a deeply progressive idea that didn’t happen under progressive mayors, it happened under Mayor Eric Adams. So, I’m deeply grateful for that type of work.

So, in an effort to show that what Biggie Smalls says — The Notorious B.I.G. says — spread love is the Brooklyn way, it’s hard to do that unless you’re an example. I don’t want to just talk about it, I want to be about it. So, actually I have a gift for the mayor.

I brought a gift for Christmas, there’s the gift, all the work that he’s doing. This is a Sanitation truck that I wanted to give the mayor. Keep on fighting those rats. We love you in Brooklyn. Thank you so much. Happy Hanukkah to all and happy holidays. Thank you so much.

Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar: Good morning. I’m State Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar, and the mayor and I just finished our first‑ever five borough Diwali tour, where we lit the diya lamps in all five boroughs across this city.

And when I look at every faith, every faith celebrates light this season. It’s the Christmas lights. Today’s the second day of Hanukkah where we’re lighting the menorah. And it’s not just about lighting the menorah, it’s about lighting the light within ourselves, turning on the lights, shine like the whole universe is yours, spread love and kindness every day; and if we do that, then we will truly become the city of God.

And for me this season, this is also about turning on the light within ourselves and living lives of meaning and of purpose. And I think of Dr. King who said that life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others? Mahatma Gandhi also said it. She said, when in doubt about what action I should take, I recall the most miserable and helpless man I’ve ever met and I think, will what I do help that man? And then all the answers become so clear.

And let us also remember the words of the Bible that inspire me: blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. And that calls all of us to be peacemakers. That calls upon all of us to build those bridges of love and understanding every single day so that we can become the city of God. Thank you so much and happy holidays.

Pastor Monrose: I’m just going to say thank you to all faith leaders who have come today to stand and show are that the city is in the hands of individuals who wants unity, show light; and also too, of course, I want to do a special shout out to Reverend Terry Lee who have been on the forefront helping communities as well who is here today. Some of the heroes that we talked about that is not mentioned often, so blessings to all. And again, happy holidays. Mayor Adams.

Mayor Adams: I want to, you know, before our religious leaders, many of them have been part of the asylum seeker crisis, migrants, and I just want to thank them and I just want to give a brief update.

As you know, yesterday I was in Washington D.C. to meet with our congressional leaders and to meet with the White House. And I wanted to take the opportunity at the White House celebration for the holiday season because I knew I would have the gathering of lawmakers or mayors from across the country and I was able to speak with the mayor of Chicago and leaders from Massachusetts and others.

And we’re seeing the same thing across the entire country. Our residents are weary, our residents are angry, our residents are seeing the impact of the migrant and asylum seeker issue, how it is taking away from the resources that should go to the day‑to‑day services of running the city.

We did not walk out from D.C. with any level of optimism that anything is going to drastically change. It is clear that for the time being, this crisis is going to be carried by the cities. Here in New York City, as you know, we had a very painful November plan that we had to produce, and now we’re looking forward for the direction of how do we address a $7 billion budget deficit that we have to address in January.

And these men and women behind me who are service providers in some way or another, they see firsthand what these cuts are doing and will do. This is not the budget we want to pass. The budget we wanted to pass clearly invested in children and families and those who are in need. We are at an untenable situation right now.

And it is painful for us. It is painful for the city. And I think that you see it being reflected in the polls. It is because our federal government actions have taken a toll on the people of this city.

We’re going to continue to do our job in this administration, but these are extremely challenging times. And as I left Washington D.C., I did not leave with optimism, I left with the cold reality that help is not on the way in the immediate future. It is going to be, at this moment, it’s going to be up to New Yorkers and this administration to continue to navigate this challenge that we’re facing. Okay. Thank you.

Pastor Monrose: Thank you, everyone.

December 8, 2023 New York City Hall


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