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Local Muslim, Jewish communities meet in solidarity against threats

Members of two faith communities that have come to feel under siege in a tense political climate came together Tuesday in a show of support and solidarity.

The Muslim Public Affairs Council and members of the Muslim community met with members of the Jewish community at the Jewish Community Center on North Forest Road in Getzville.

Members of both communities stressed that it was important that they stand together as Americans to send a strong message.

"We're delighted that members of our Muslim community reached out to us to say that 'we want to show our support and we want to express solidarity with the Jewish community,' " said Rob Goldberg, chief executive officer of the Buffalo Jewish Federation.

"Here, in Buffalo, we are really blessed."

Two weeks ago, the Jewish center in Amherst became one of numerous Jewish Community Centers around the country to receive threats.

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Rick Zakalik, chief executive officer of the Jewish Community Center in Buffalo, expressed gratitude to the Muslim community for its support of the Jewish community.

"It means a great deal to us," he said.

"Two weeks ago, we thought that the most exciting news that the JCC could share is that we installed 27 new treadmills in both of our buildings at a cost of about $171,000, and we were encouraging people to use them ... But later that we we got a telephone call from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security and New York State Police and others who told us that they were aware of our website and the websites of other JCCs around the Thruway and were monitoring our website and saw some suspicious activity in terms of looking for telephone numbers and it was the IP address, which was a hard to identify IP address, and that we should expect a call," Zakalik said.

Hundreds attend solidarity event at Buffalo's Jewish Community Center

For two weeks, he said, the local JCC was in protection mode, reviewing with its staff to how to handle a bomb threat and building evacuations.

"It was a good practice run for us. We don't think it's the last time it will happen. It's not the first time the Jewish community, or other communities, have been under threat. We know from this from thousands of years of history. We've been under various threats ... We're also not frightened by it. Jews are tough to frighten. We know what we need to do ... and how to survive,"  Zakalik added.

He and other speakers at Tuesday's event also recognized threats against the Muslim community.

Dr. Khalid Qazi, of the Muslim Public Affairs Council of Western New York, stressed the importance of the two communities making an effort to band together long term.

"It is a great time to be together, but it's also a time for great concern and trepidation," Qazi said. "Hopefully, we'll be going together for some distance because, for some reason or the other, that has not happened in the past. It happened for a very brief time when I had conversations with my Jewish friends back in the mid '80s to late '80s, early '90s and then it fell apart for one reason or the other. I'm hoping this will be a more lasting relationship because I can see that we are ready for it and you are ready for it."

Qazi said there is no question about the Muslim community's support.

"There is no question in terms of where the Muslim community is in relation to our Jewish brothers and sisters: we are with you," Qazi said. "An attack on you is an attack on us."

He continued, "I don't think, as Americans, any one of us can have any doubt about that. And I'm here to tell you, from the entire Muslim community that this region and nationally that there is absolutely no doubt in our mind that if we don't stay together, we all will be targets."

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