2016-08-03 / Voice at the Shore

Jewish leaders join community at healing service in mourning officers and others slain

By ELLEN WEISMAN STRENGER
Voice shore editor


Doug Stanger (left), vice-chair of the Philadelphia region’s ADL, greets Muslim cleric Iman Amin Muhammad at the Service for Healing in Atlantic City on July 18. Both men spoke at the service. Doug Stanger (left), vice-chair of the Philadelphia region’s ADL, greets Muslim cleric Iman Amin Muhammad at the Service for Healing in Atlantic City on July 18. Both men spoke at the service. Rabbis, cantors and lay leaders of the Jewish community joined roughly 100 people at a Service of Healing at the Second Baptist Church in Atlantic City to honor the lives of those slain unjustly as well as to show support for local law enforcement on July 18. Community members in attendance—a fairly even mix of black and white people of many religions— joined clergy and political leaders in praying for an end to the violence that took the lives of police officers and African Americans in Baton Rouge, Dallas, Minnesota and elsewhere in our nation.

Organized by Atlantic City Councilman Kaleem Shabazz, the service’s sponsors included Bridge of Faith (an organization of interfaith clergy cofounded by Shabazz and Rabbi Aaron Krauss) and the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Atlantic and Cape May Counties, as well as the Second Baptist Church and Shabazz.

“We’ve come to say that all lives matter… We are all God’s creatures… We’ve got to work together to bring an end to the violence,” said Second Baptist Church Pastor Collins Days, Sr., spiritual leader of the African-American church. A moment of silence for those slain followed Days’ opening prayer.

Political leaders at the service, including Mayor Don Guardian, spoke proudly of positive changes that have taken place in the AC Police Department over the past several years under the leadership of Police Chief Henry White, who is African American. According to White, who also spoke at the service, complaints against police officers received by the Police Internal Affairs Department decreased from 250 in 2013, to 144 in 2014, to 50 in 2015. Only 20 complaints have been reported thus far in 2016.

“A community that is fearful of the police department and a police department that is fearful of the community” is a recipe for disaster, said White.

“The best deterrence to crime is cooperation— citizens working together,” he noted.

Toward that end, his department has created numerous community engagement initiatives, including police-led boxing, tutoring and basketball programs for kids; “Pizza with the Police,” which brings schoolchildren together with local police officers for periodic pizza lunches; and “Coffee with a Cop,” a program that brings officers together with parents.

Doug Stanger, vice chairman of the Anti-Defamation League’s Philadelphia Region, further underscored the importance of better communication as a way to counter hate. He said that the ADL, which was formed in 1913 to stop defamation and gain fair treatment for Jews and others, has offered sensitivity training for police officers in Atlantic City and elsewhere, and also offers school-based programs that teach children respect and tolerance for all different kinds of people.

“Individuals can make a difference with how we treat one another,” said Stanger. “The question is, what we can do on a daily basis to make a difference?”

Muslim cleric Iman Amin Muhammad echoed Stanger’s call for people to change the way they deal with others on a day-to-day basis. In particular, he encouraged those present to call others out for wrongdoing.

“I don’t accept criminal behavior of any kind,” said the Iman, adding that when good people are afraid to point out unjust behavior, they are enablers to the problem.

Meanwhile, said Guardian, Atlantic City’s flags have been flying at half-mast as a sign of mourning for the recent tragic slayings. Sadly, he added, this year has seen more days of flags at half-mast than at fullmast. s

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