Since taking office, Mayor Greg Fischer’s goal has been to establish Louisville as a forward thinking and inspiring community that exemplifies compassion.
In the wake of recent hate messages painted on the walls of the Islamic Center on River Road, I am proud that our Louisville community, including our Jewish community, responded immediately, showing our respect, compassion and concern standing side-by-side with our neighbors.
While we have been standing and working together for many years with members of the Islamic community, there was a time we were not connected. As we celebrate the compassion our community has embraced, we should also respect and regard the strides we have made.
I started my day at a press conference standing outside the Mosque reflecting that 25 years ago today I started my career as the community relations director at the Jewish Federation. I am in awe and grateful for the relationship that has developed between our two communities – a relationship we would not have envisioned 25 years ago.
The agenda of the Community Relations Council and the Federation 25 years ago included building a stronger relationship with our public school system; concerns that Chanukah would be compared to Christmas in public spaces; the 25th anniversary of Nostra Aetate, the document in which the Roman Catholic Church recognized the Jewish people are not responsible for the death of Jesus; Operation Exodus, which brought one million Soviet Jews from the former Soviet Union; and a strong interfaith presence in Louisville that included, at that time, only members of the Jewish and Christian faiths.
It took a lot of strong leaders to open the doors to each other, redefine interfaith relations and build true friendships. Words can cause pain and fear, but words can also create hope and compassion. Over the past two decades, the commitment of our Jewish and Muslim communities to listen and learn from each other has strengthened both of our communities and the Louisville community as a whole.
At the mosque last Friday, the Jewish community was a strong presence among the broad interfaith gathering. Together, our community of many faiths overpowered the message of hate left by vandals with an act of solidarity, community and spirit. Louisville is indeed a compassionate community.