In a show of solidarity with the Jewish community and to pray for an end to the escalation of Jewish hate crimes, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, head of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, joined Rabbi Joshua Davidson and the congregation of Temple Emanu-El on the Upper East Side of Manhattan for Shabbat services on May 28.
Anti-Semitic attacks have surged in New York City and across the United States in the wake of the bloody 11-day war between Israel and Hamas, which ended with a cease-fire on May 21. At a press conference before the service, Dolan explained why he thought it was important to stand with the Jewish community.
With Memorial Day around the corner, Dolan reminded everyone that “this weekend we celebrate the brave women and men who gave their lives to save America from the tyranny of hate,” referring to the Holocaust in which the Nazis killed 6 million Jewish people during World War II.
“If we see that threat come up again, we need, in their honor, to stand up,” Dolan said, underscoring that religious friendship and respect for each other have always been the hallmark of New York City.
Davidson — the senior rabbi at Temple Emanu-El, founded in 1845 as the first Reform Jewish congregation in New York City — expressed his gratitude for Cardinal Dolan’s friendship.
The rabbi shared that the cardinal called him on Wednesday, and said he would like to join the congregation for Shabbat services on Friday.
“What makes friends, friends is that they know when you need them,” Davidson said. “Cardinal Dolan is our friend at a time when the Jewish community is experiencing anxiety and fear. He knew that we needed him to be with us. And I hope he knows that will always be with him.”
Davidson expressed that the recent spike in hate crimes is due to the conflict between Israel and Gaza.
“We’re seeing how the hatred of Israel can descend into a hatred of Jews,” Temple Emanu-El’s senior rabbi said.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) shared that it had received an uptick in reports of possible anti-Semitic attacks since the conflict between Israel and Hamas broke out — up 75%, from 127 to 222, compared to two weeks before the war.
And the NYPD says that there have been 80 anti-Semitic hate crimes so far this year compared to 62 for the same period in 2020.
This week, a brick was thrown through the window of Saba’s Pizza, a kosher restaurant on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
On Wednesday, three men were charged with hate crimes after they yelled antisemitic slurs at four men standing outside a synagogue in Borough Park, Brooklyn, and assaulted two Jewish teenagers in Kensington, Brooklyn, last week.
Two men have been arrested for attacking a Jewish man near Times Square during a pro-Palestinian protest.
When asked how to respond to the attackers, Rabbi Davidson answered that the best solution would be to stand together with people who understand that there’s no place for any kind of hatred or bigotry in the United States.
“The best answer is for us to form those coalitions of conscience and be together in partnership. We need each other,” Davidson explained before he left with Cardinal Dolan for a special Shabbat service against the world’s oldest hate.
During his sermon, addressing only 200 worshippers in a space that usually holds 2,500, the rabbi recognized that the Jewish community was still reeling from the synagogue shootings in Pittsburgh and Poway and the Monsey stabbing.
“Now Jews in America and across the world are threatened by physical attacks from anti-Israel extremists,” Davidson said, referring to the rise in violent attacks on Jews in cities like New York, Houston, and London as well as the anti-Semitic vitriol on social media.
Davidson further warned of the more subtle forms of bigotry in forms of rhetorical attacks “made in the halls of academia and congressional and diplomatic chambers, casting Israel as the villain of the Middle East. The party solely responsible for the failure of peace, as if Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Iran, and Hezbollah didn’t exist.”
While Rabbi Davidson acknowledged that the State of Israel must do more to address the human rights issue and the Palestinians’ aspiration for an independent state, he also emphasized, “It cannot, however, solve the conflict on its own. We are witnessing how a hateful obsession with Israel very easily descends into a hatred of Jews.”
“But we do have friends here for us when we need them,” he said. “So now it’s my honor to introduce our friend, the Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Parker Dolan.”
Cardinal Dolan, a frequent speaker at Temple Emanu-El, said that his visit came at a “very ominous time” and described the recent hate crimes and vitriol against the Jewish community as frightening and deplorable.
He acknowledged that many had been the target of bias crimes in recent months, including the Catholic Church.
“But the Jewish community always seems to bear the brunt — historically, and right now,” Cardinal Dolan said and shared that his parents taught him to help those in need and to tell them they are loved.
“And that, my Jewish neighbors, is what this Catholic friend from down the block simply says to you tonight. Thanks for welcoming me,” Cardinal Dolan said, concluding his speech with the Jewish greeting, “Shalom Shabbat.”