RIDGEFIELD, Conn. -- Rabbi David L. Reiner of Congregation Shir Shalom of Westchester and Fairfield Counties said he was saddened by recent discoveries of anti-Semitic graffiti on two locations in Ridgefield.
Ridgefield Police received reports on Sunday and Tuesday that swastikas had been found drawn on the Aldrich Museum and the Masonic Lodge in Ridgefield. The drawings appeared to have been drawn by the same person and were removed, but are part of a pattern of anti-Semitic drawings that have cropped up in town over recent months.
Reiner said that police have assured him there is no cause for alarm, and that he believes they are conducting a thorough investigation and are eager to catch those responsible. He added that he is in contact with the Anti-Defamation League and will be reaching out to the Aldrich Museum and Masonic Lodge to offer support.
"As we prepare to celebrate the life of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. this weekend, I am reminded of a line published in his 1963 sermon anthology, Strength to Love: 'Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that,'" Reiner said. "Reverend King believed that light and love and learning are necessary to overcome darkness and hatred and ignorance."
The Anti-Defamation League facilitated a day-long retreated in December that was attended by more than 40 Ridgefield town officials, including Reiner, focused on how the town can respond to incidents of bigotry and ignorance. The program looked at how these instances affect the entire town, not just the Jewish community, Reiner said.
"The recurrence of graffiti—at schools, in the park, and on private property—is a cause of serious concern for town leaders," Reiner said. "Prosecuting perpetrators may stop those whose ignorance and hatred has inspired action; responding appropriately to hatred and transforming ignorance into knowing are also necessary."
Congregation Shir Shalom is also hosting upcoming programs for students that are designed to provoke meaningful conversations and respond to hatred, bigotry and ignorance. The programs will be held on Jan. 26 for 4th and 5th grade students, and on March 11 for 6th and 7th grade students. But Reiner said that these programs are not the only solution.
"I remain disappointed and frustrated after each incident, though I am comforted knowing that I am not alone and that town leaders share my anger and sadness. Even if the person/people responsible for these swastikas are apprehended, sadly, this will probably not be the last incident of ignorance or bigotry in our community. Nevertheless, I will not let the darkness or hatred or ignorance of others limit my life or dreams," Reiner said.
"Less than a week before he was assassinated, Reverend King delivered a sermon at the Washington National Cathedral in which he said, 'We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.' Reverend King’s prophetical words offer me comfort and hope: though ignorance and bigotry create discouraging darkness, we will overcome through our pursuit of justice, knowledge, understanding, and love."
Congregation Shir Shalom will celebrate King's life this weekend with a special MLK Shabbat Worship on Friday, Jan. 12 at 7 p.m. The annual Ridgefield celebration of MLK Day will be held Monday, Jan. 15 from 3 to 4:30 p.m. at the Ridgefield Playhouse.
"By driving out darkness with light, by banishing hatred with love, by combating ignorance with knowledge, we honor the life and work of Reverend King and will succeed in bettering our community and our world," Reiner said.
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