COLUMBUS, OH – Today, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) delivered remarks during the US Together Refugee Integration Conference in Columbus, Ohio. US Together is an Ohio affiliate of HIAS, founded as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, which was targeted on social media by the shooter who killed 11 worshipers at a synagogue in Pittsburgh last Saturday. US Together assists refugees escaping persecution, violence, tyranny, and extreme poverty. US Together partnered with The Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center and others to host its “2018 Refugee Integration Conference: Overcoming Trauma to Integration.”
Brown’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, can be found below.
Thank you to Nadia Kasvin and everyone with US Together for the incredible work you do across Ohio. Thank you to those who came from Cleveland and Toledo, and thanks to the providers and all of you who work with refugees. And thank you to Dr. Buhari Mohammed for giving today’s keynote address.
All of your work is more important now than ever.
Connie and I stand with you and the entire Jewish community in Ohio, condemning the evil, anti-Semitic attack in Pittsburgh.
Our hearts break for the Tree of Life Synagogue, and we send our gratitude to the first responders and brave members of the community who put themselves in harm’s way to protect others.
Over the past few days, I’ve talked with Rabbis and other Jewish leaders around our state. There are so many connections between the Jewish communities in Ohio and Pennsylvania – some of you may have lost friends, or have friends or family in Pittsburgh who lost someone. We are so sorry for your loss.
We have seen far too many of these attacks recently. From the streets of Charlottesville to the bomb threats against Ohio’s Jewish community centers last year, from the attempted mail bombings last week, to the murder of two African Americans at a grocery store in Kentucky, and now, tragically, to Pittsburgh – racism and anti-Semitism have reared their ugly heads.
We must stand united, and say with one voice that bigotry and violence have no place in Ohio, and no place in this country. We will not tolerate acts of hate against our neighbors.
The great Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said, “that indifference to evil is worse than evil itself, that in a free society, some are guilty but all responsible.”
All are responsible.
We had too many reminders last week just how divided our country has become. We have to heal those divisions and come together as Americans. So many things are far more important than party politics.
We have an obligation to stand united in fighting anti-Semitism, bigotry, and intolerance wherever it may be found. We are called to stand up together against hate in all its forms.
The President of the United States has the most powerful microphone in the world. So I call on President Trump to set the tone – to stop using language that divides us, stop attacking the journalists whose work is so crucial to our democracy, and to help heal our divides.
Because we know there is so much more that unites us than divides us.
The shooter in Pittsburgh targeted HIAS by name – he posted about HIAS on social media just hours before murdering 11 innocent Americans.
But you are here today, showing the country and the world that you will not be intimidated. The work you do represents the best in our country, in our American values.
Over the past few years, I’ve hosted roundtables across the state with refugee and immigrant communities in Ohio.
The first one we held two years ago was here in Columbus – Nadia was part of our roundtable, and it was hosted by Jewish Family Services, with June Gutterman.
It was 2016. One woman at the roundtable was a Syrian refugee. One day her daughter came home from school, and told her she was worried that if Donald Trump became president, her family would have to leave the country, because they are Muslims.
She told her daughter, “There’s more love out there than hate.”
While the tragic act of terror in Pittsburgh reminds us how much work we still have to do to combat hate, I still believe she’s right. I see that love throughout our state, throughout the Jewish community, throughout so many communities of faith.
I see it in this room, through your work.
You live the teaching of tikkun olam – repairing the world.
Right now, it may seem the world needs more repair than ever.
But looking around this room, I have faith. Looking around Ohio, I have faith.
Last year, I worked with the Jewish Community Center of Greater Columbus and the Interfaith Association for Central Ohio to bring Rabbi Heschel’s daughter, Susannah Heschel, back to Ohio, to speak here in Columbus.
We talked about the iconic picture of her father walking hand-in-hand with Dr. King and John Lewis and Reverend Shuttlesworth, across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.
Susannah Heschel has written movingly of what that photograph meant to her, and to so many Americans of faith.
She wrote that Selma was, “a profoundly religious moment,” and today it “represents a hope for redemption, a hope expressed by the prophets of Israel, of an era in which bigotry will finally come to an end.”
Thank you for all that you do to work for that redemption.