WPCNR WESTCHESTER COMMUNITY. From the American Jewish Committee. November 16, 2022:
In a time when antisemitism is on the rise and hate crimes have reached alarming levels, what can unite communities in times of strife needs to have a greater focus compared to what might divide them.
That was the key message to emerge from the American Jewish Committee Westchester/Fairfield Thanksgiving Diversity Breakfast November 9 at Suny Westchester Community College.
“Together, we are stronger,” said Myra Clark-Siegel, director of AJC Westchester/Fairfield. “Everybody coming together in unity. When you think about Thanksgiving, that’s what the holiday was really designed for.”
More than 300 people—representing more than 110 community groups from different religions, ethnic backgrounds, and walks of life–attended the breakfast at SUNY Westchester Community College, whose president, Belinda S. Miles, proudly noted was the most diverse of any of the 64 colleges in the State University of New York System.
In many ways, the gathering felt like a family reunion. Indeed, this was the first time since 2019 the breakfast was held in person because of the pandemic. New York Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins remembered when the breakfasts were much smaller and said the large turnout this year was both inspiring and necessary.
“Sometimes, it takes a breakfast like this to remind us that we are not alone. That there are other like-minded people who will not only break bread but will stand in solidarity with you in doing this work.”
Stewart-Cousins was one of the keynote speakers, along with Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado, who said combating antisemitism and hate crimes was a top priority for him and Gov. Kathy Hochul.
“It’s critical that we do this work. It’s also sad that we have to take these kinds of steps to offer protection,” said Delgado, who with his wife, filmmaker Lacey Schwartz Delgado, are raising their two children as Jewish. “More security and protection is necessary but it is not sufficient. We must address extremism and divisiveness with work, prayer, love, and conversation.”
Also among those attending were Westchester County Executive George Latimer who provided welcoming remarks on behalf of Westchester County; New Rochelle Mayor Noah Bramson; White Plains Mayor Thomas Roach; and dozens of officials.
Caroline Simmons, the mayor of Stamford, CT, told the breakfast her city’s adoption—in partnership with AJC—of the working definition of antisemitism by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, was in keeping with Stamford’s diversity.
“We have residents who speak 71 different languages who come from all different faiths and backgrounds,” Simmons said. “And this diversity is our greatest source of pride and strength.”
This was the 21st Thanksgiving Diversity Breakfast, which was started as a way to help Westchester and Fairfield counties heal following the 9/11 attacks
AJC provided every participant with a Thanksgiving “America’s Table” reader, which provides discussion questions for families to use during Thanksgiving, and inspirational quotes by interfaith and intergroup leaders. Participants also received suggestions on “How to Be an Upstander,” and took action during the Breakfast by signing onto AJC’s nine-point Statement of Community of Conscience of Principles, a non-partisan, non-denominational way that every person can take action to be an upstander for others.