The Reverend Jesse Jackson convened a meeting of leaders from Chicago’s Jewish, Muslim, and Christian communities February 24 to discuss ways to fight the recent outpouring of hate crimes, particularly against Jews and Muslims.
The meeting, held at KAM Isaiah Israel Congregation, the Hyde Park synagogue that sits across the street from former President Barack Obama’s former Chicago home, took place under the shadow of the desecration of Chesed Kol Emeth Cemetery near St. Louis.
It was an event very much on the famed civil rights leader’s mind.
“Anyone who calculatedly destroys tombstones really is low,” he said. When Jackson asked if there had been any similar vandalism in the Chicago area, a few of the attendees reminded him of the bomb threats against two area JCCs and the attack on the Chicago Loop Synagogue earlier this month.
“Synagogues and churches need to go and get acquainted again,” Jackson said. “We do not know each other anymore.”
Many people in the room had been attending the same gatherings around the city as far back as November, following the presidential election and the early episodes of what has become a wave of anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish hate crimes. The earliest post-election gathering, organized by the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, brought in speakers from different groups in the city, including those dedicated to helping Muslims and immigrants, to let the Jewish community know what they could do to help.
Many of the participants have joined in the marches that have been covering the city from election night onward. The largest of these was the Women’s March in Grant Park, but there have been regular demonstrations outside of Trump Tower and in Federal Plaza, site of many government offices, on “Trump Tuesdays.”
When President Trump issued his executive order at the end of January that temporarily banned immigration of all refugees and nationals of seven primarily Muslim countries, many of the same people showed up at the international terminal at O’Hare Airport to protest. And four days after the attack on the Chicago Loop Synagogue, Muslims and Christians packed the synagogue’s sanctuary for an interfaith rally against hatred organized by the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.
Over the past three months, the city’s churches and synagogues, and also its mosques and secular community groups, have, indeed, been getting reacquainted. Every time one group has been injured, the other groups have been there standing up for them.
At a press conference after the KAM meeting, representatives from 16 organizations stood up to declare that they were going to fight against hate and support unity. The strange part was, there were almost more people on stage than there were in the audience. Maybe it’s because it wasn’t news. Although it was nice to hear, it was something we all already knew.