Clergy, elected leaders join forces to prevent further hate crimes

Victim Is Well-Respected Leader Who ‘Builds Bridges Among People’

October 14, 2014 By Francesca Norsen Tate, Religion Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Mohammad Razvi, president of the Council of Peoples Organization, embraces Leonard Petlakh (left, center).
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Brooklyn’s clergy joined NYC and state-elected officials at Borough Hall on Tuesday to support a faith leader who was physically attacked on Oct. 7 while attending a basketball game at Barclays Center. The group of rabbis, pastors and government leaders also stated that hate crimes will not be tolerated in a city acclaimed for its diversity.

The outpouring of support was for Leonard Petlakh, executive director of the Kings Bay YMHA, which has branches throughout Brooklyn. Petlakh is widely known for his interfaith work in bridge-building between cultures.

For the past two years, he has been instrumental in sponsoring Jewish-Muslim events with the Turkish Cultural Center, the Kings Bay Y, Congregation Beth Elohim, Congregation Mount Sinai and other faith and community organizations.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams called for the press conference a week after Petlakh had been physically assaulted at the Barclays Center by a protest group claiming to represent the rights of all Palestinians.

Petlakh was present and repeatedly embraced at the press conference.

Adams, also a former policeman, said there has been an upsurge in hate crimes, and violent actions are not tolerated in Brooklyn.  Adams also said there is an investigation in progress to capture and prosecute the attackers.  

Assemblymember Steven Cymbrowitz called on the NYPD to arrest those who participated in the attack on Petlakh.

“This brutal and sudden attack never should have happened in the first place,” said Cymbrowitz, who also mentioned how the group made their intentions known in advance.  “The police and Barclays should have had sufficient manpower available to control the protestors and keep them apart from the public.”

Cymbrowitz additionally noted Petlakh’s efforts to bring diverse groups together.

“Leonard Petlakh has spent his entire career building bridges among people of different ethnic groups through dialogue and the shared goals of friendship and tolerance. Acts of violence must not be allowed to destroy the good work that Leonard and other leaders have done to bring diverse groups together. In order for this work to continue we need good people to speak out whenever and wherever anti-Jewish violence should happen to occur … not just at Barclays but anywhere in our city and beyond,” Cymbrowitz said.


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