“Hate has no home here,” Chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, Dr. Valerie Arkoosh, said to a room of around 300, during an interfaith candlelight vigil in response to recent anti-Semitic and racist attacks.
The latest incident occurred approximately two weeks ago, where Klu Klux Klan (KKK) flyers, marked with hearts and language such as “Love your race,” were distributed to homes in Maple Glen, a district of the Upper Dublin Township. Other recent hate-based acts in Montgomery County have included graffiti with Nazi and KKK symbols and language supporting President Donald Trump.
The event, hosted by the Wissahickon Faith Community, was originally scheduled to take place at Mondauk Park, but due to weather, was moved to Ambler Church of the Brethren on Thursday, May 25.
“The weather was lousy, so I thought we would get a real small crowd, but we did well,” one of the orchestrators, Rabbi Gregory Marx, said in an interview. “I think there are many people of good will, who truly care and want to do the right thing. Tonight is just a reflection of that,” the rabbi of Congregation Beth Or added.
The event had a full lineup of short speeches from religious leaders of various faiths, educators, and political representatives. A rallying message came from Pastor Charles Quann of Bethlehem Baptist Church, an organizer of the event. “As an African American, I have some scars, in fact they are wounds, wounds on the inside, and I know that I am not alone, because my brothers and sisters in the Jewish faith have scars,” he said. Pastor Quann, a 31-year resident of Montgomery County, believed that the community and country had moved beyond past hate, to which he then chanted with the multi-faith audience, “we are not going back.”
Others sounded similar sentiments of frustration and anger. “I can’t believe in my lifetime, in this community, that this is what’s going on. It’s upsetting,” Amy Abrams, a congregant of Beth Or and a participant of the vigil, said. Starting to tear up, she continued, “I’ve lived here almost 40-years, and I’ve never experienced this. I thought for my children it would be different.”
The vigil also included singing from the church’s choir as the event’s participants lit candles and held them up in solidarity.
The pastor of Ambler Church of the Brethren and president of the Wissahickon Faith Community Association, Enten Eller, said after the vigil, “I am thrilled at the turnout and the energy, thrilled that there are people who are holding up the light and standing against the actions that were in our community.”