Religious, community leaders participate in training to combat h - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Religious, community leaders participate in training to combat hate crimes

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New Haven Islamic Center (WFSB file photo) New Haven Islamic Center (WFSB file photo)

Amid hate crimes that happen all over the world, religious leaders in the state took part in a training program, to better protect themselves and their congregation.

For Judy Alperin, that fear was all too real, after Jewish Community Centers in Woodbridge and West Hartford, along with a synagogue and day school, were targeted.

Those were just two of the more than 200 threatening calls to Jewish facilities in the states between January and March.

"We were really living on a state of high alert in anticipating when the next email would come, the next phone call,” said Alperin, of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven.

Part of the training was about active shooter scenarios, and afterwards, local religious leaders highlighted the need to not only be united, but also educate others.

"Unfortunately, the things we thought we'd never have to confront, we are confronting,” Alperin said.

Authorities recently indicted an 18-year-old Israeli American with dual citizenship, connecting him to a number of the threats.

Even so, the FBI along with religious and civil rights groups gathered in New Haven for a day of training when it comes to hate crimes and how to be prepared.

"It teaches folks how to respond, how to react. I think we've learned a lot of lessons over the years from the tragedies,” said FBI Special Agent Patricia Ferrick.

In addition to the threats at the JCCs, the New Haven Islamic Center received a letter telling Muslims to “get out of dodge.”

"When you see an incident of violence or hate, speak up, and if you think it actually maybe a crime, report it. Report it to your local police or the FBI,” said U.S. Attorney Deirdre Daly.

Following their training, religious leaders stressed a need for a united front, stressing while their faiths might be different, they all want the same thing… peace and prosperity.

"People have a fear of what they do not understand and it’s because of that fear, rise hatred and because of that hatred, actions are caused,” said Bethel AME Church Pastor Steven Cousins.

"It is okay, to look different, and still be American,” said Swaranjit Singh Khalsa, of Sikh Sewak Society International USA.

While religious leaders were taking part in training, Connecticut lawmakers are considering enhancing laws when it comes to hate crimes in the state, making the vandalism of churches, synagogues, mosques and cemeteries into felonies.

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