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Jewish Scholastic Press Association

Jewish Scholastic Press Association

Mercer Island Muslim and Jewish leaders work together against hate

Elianna Rothstein
Mayor Salim Nice and Deputy Mayor Dave Rosenbaum at NYHS.

In response to a recent surge of antisemitism on Mercer Island following Oct.7, Mayor Salim Nice and Deputy Mayor Dave Rosenbaum are partnering against hate.

Nice, the first Ismaili mayor in the United States, and Rosenbaum, the son of a rabbi, are standing together to denounce these acts and call on the community to support Jewish neighbors, emphasizing the importance of maintaining unity and safety for everyone on Mercer Island.

At the center of this wave of hatred, the synagogue Herzl-Ner Tamid Conservative Congregation was defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti. This hit close to home for Deputy Mayor Rosenbaum.

“What happened at Herzl was very personal to me,” he said. “My dad was the rabbi there for a long time, and it’s where my kids and I go. I was on an airplane and received texts from people who were saying kaddish and got there to see the graffiti.”

Other anti-Semitic incidents directed at various Jewish organizations on the island include vandalism, suspicious packages, and the desecration of an Israeli flag. The FBI is continuing its investigation into the vandalism at Herzl Ner-Tamid.

Nice and Rosenbaum believe that their diverse religious representation plays a role in their joint efforts against hate. Both officials have personally encountered forms of religious hate, fueling their commitment to fostering understanding and tolerance.

Nice, who is a member of the Ismaili Muslim community, which is a sect of Shia Islam, shared his own experiences with post-9/11 prejudice in the United States, recalling instances where people would tell him to return to countries he wasn’t associated with. “I was living and working in Abu Dhabi when 9/11 happened and I came back to Fort Worth, Texas, as a Muslim, not looking like a Texan and I wasn’t treated like one. I was told to go back to countries I’m not even from.”

On October 10th, Nice and Rosenbaum released a joint statement expressing Mercer Island’s support for the Jewish community and the State of Israel. They condemned the terror attacks by Hamas against innocent Israelis and pledged support to the local Jewish community during these times.

Seven days later, they drafted a proclamation that the city council adopted assuring their commitment to ensuring a safe community and condemning all acts of violence, and terrorism. The proclamation states the fundamental values of Mercer Island, including peace, unity, dignity, and strength from diversity in religion and culture. The proclamation expresses its solidarity with the Jewish community, recognizing its historical and emotional ties to Israel and the impact of the events there. They also condemn Hamas’s terrorism and all violence.

On December 5, the council adopted a further statement that Nice and Rosenbaum co-drafted condemning the antisemitic incidents targeting Jewish organizations on Mercer Island.

In addition to public statements, Both Nice and Rosenbaum attended a rally supporting Israel along I-90 on Mercer Island on December 3, where Shye Klein Weinstein, a survivor from the music festival on Oct. 7, gave a speech. “I was moved by Shye’s story, immensely,” said Rosenbaum “While I had read and seen many stories from the Nova festival, hearing his harrowing account of his experience that day somehow made it even more real, and truly terrifying.”

Nice says even though what he has been through isn’t comparable to anti-Semitism now, “I think those experiences give you a perspective on the world and you learn empathy. You can’t have the same experience but you can certainly relate to it. This goes back to the belief that everyone should feel safe in their community regardless of their religion.”

“What’s so disruptive and disappointing to me is that this [vandalism] doesn’t help us move forward in any way,” says Rosenbaum. “We can have real discussions about issues, but spray painting on synagogues doesn’t get you there.”

This story appeared in Northwest Yeshiva High School’s The Mane Idea on Dec. 24, 2023.

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