I am saddened, but not surprised, that the forces that strive to keep us divided have silenced a vital dialogue in a Synagogue in West Hampton, N.Y., in which Rev. Al Sharpton and Rabbi Marc Schneier of the Foundation For Ethnic Understanding strove to bridge a deeply troubled part in America's past: the Crown Heights Riots of 1991.
In this racially and religiously charged episode, two people lost their lives, a young black boy and young Jewish man. It was an ugly and disturbing chapter in our nation and our city's history. Rev. Al Sharpton and Rabbi Schneier tried courageously to advance the cause of understanding between races and religions by shedding light where darkness has reigned. That light was not extinguished by Rev. Sharpton's conscientious decision to pull back until the moment comes, hopefully soon, to restart the dialogue.
Let me say this, as the Chairman of The Foundation For Ethnic Understanding, it is the solemn and fundamental obligation of ALL religious institutions and leaders to fight relentlessly for understanding and reconciliation. Because the tenet of every religion from East to West is peace and salvation. And the only way that we all can reach this state is through dialogue, debate and the light of understanding.
The haters will always hate. Hatred is their oxygen. You can drudge up grievances from the past and anxiety about the future in every moment, but the only moment we have is the one we live in now. It is in this moment, today, right now, that we can make a difference. When we see a moment where we can advance the condition of our human existence, we need to grab that moment, listen, engage and become our better selves. It is a crying shame that this did not happen this weekend at Rabbi Schneier's synagogue, but that's nothing. It will happen. Jews and blacks are tied by the bounds of history to understand and appreciate each other's struggles and striving for inclusion, acceptance and understanding.
But it is to the institutions -- the synagogues, the mosques, the churches, the temples -- that I address this statement: DO YOUR JOB! Dig deep into the roots of your religions and fight for peace through reconciliation, understanding and love, which is the universal feeling that binds us all.
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