Fight racism with kindness
Riverdale is far from perfect, and community members provide plenty of occasions for detractors to point out the foibles that arise in a neighborhood full of people passionately invested in the state of their parks, streets, schools and landmarks.
However, when a person comes from near or far to make Riverdale his or her home, the newcomer should be able to expect a welcoming atmosphere that does not just tolerate, but revels in diversity.
Last week’s hateful vandalism targeting one new resident should thus outrage anyone who has ever called this part of New York City home.
At the same time, the response from a range of community members exemplifies the best side of Riverdale, providing hope that we can rise above crude hatred and racism.
Police say that last Friday, Menuhin Hart suffered the second incident of racism since he moved to Whitehall about three years ago. The African American man awoke on April 4 to find hate speech spray painted on his car.
Such a criminal act has no place in our community, and we hope the authorities will find and prosecute the perpetrator and any accomplices to the fullest extent of the law.
But since news of the hate crime spread throughout the community, a resident has started an online fundraiser to help Mr. Hart fix his vandalized truck.
The Hebrew Institute of Riverdale’s Rabbi Ari Hart, who is helping the fundraiser, aptly stated how many in the community feel.
“Racism isn’t tolerable,” he said. “It’s against Jewish values and it’s against Riverdale values.”
We would add that the kind of racism Mr. Hart — and others throughout the Bronx — suffered is an affront to all of the humanistic traditions that thrive in the U.S.
We wholeheartedly second the HIR rabbi’s hope that the fundraiser — and, more importantly, the communal sentiment it represents — will change the mind of Mr. Hart, who reportedly plans to leave Whitehall and Riverdale for good in light of last Friday’s vandalism, the second such incident he has suffered here.
The fundraiser also has lessons for our community, where the memory of swastikas carved into Seton Park over the winter is still fresh.