Waterbury Faith Leaders Rally To Support Jewish Community In Wake Of Pittsburgh Murders

Rabbi Aharon Kaufman of Rosh Yeshiva listened to the speakers inside City Hall.


Story and Photographs By John Murray


   Fahd Syed is a local Muslim activist and a member of the Waterbury Human Rights Commission. When President Donald Trump announced plans in 2017 to ban Muslims from seven countries from entering the United States, Syed felt a warm embrace from the local Jewish community. The show of support from Jewish leaders and other leaders of faith helped Syed and the local Muslim community through a difficult time. After the murder of 11 Jews in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday, Syed felt compelled to organize a rally of support for his Jewish brothers and sisters in Greater Waterbury.

   Local religious leaders responded to Syed’s outreach and more than 200 area residents packed Veterans Hall last night to listen to speeches of solidaity from Dr. Bonnie Odiorne of the Naugatuck Valley Project, Alica Strong, the 21 year-old executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations CT, Bishop John Selders the executive director for Moral Mondays, Jade Stoltz, the executive director of the Jewish Federation of Western CT, Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty, and courageous 11-year-old Mariam Azeez who brought the house down with a moving reading from a book she wrote about diversity, acceptance and love.


11-year-old Mariam Azeez of Newtown read a portion of her book, “Soulful Sydney” last night during the event inside Veterans Hall in downtown Waterbury. The book was co-authored by Mariam and sisters Terry Murphy of Southbury, and Deborah Clarke of Maryland. Mariam is an 8th grader in Newtown and needed a chair to stand on to reach the microphone. Standing next to her is Fahd Syed, the organizer of the event, and Mariam’s mentor.


Veterans Hall was standing room only as the City of Waterbury, local clergy, and community activists took a stand of solidarity with the local Jewish community.


Bishop John Selders is the executive director of Moral Mondays and the assistant dean of students at Trinity College in Hartford, Selders said “somethings are just wrong” and the community needs to stand up and take action.


Members of the local Jewish community were moved by the outpouring of support from Waterbury.


The rally was organized by Fahd Syed, a local Muslim activist, who told the Republican-American newspaper that, “We are living in times where people are just hateful and emboldened and we want to show we are together and we are united.”


Veterans hall was filled with individuals from different cultures with different faiths, but they all stood against hated and in support of the Jewish community.


Alicia Strong told the crowd that, “we are living in very difficult times where hate is rampant and the Muslim community will fight for the Jewish community until you feel safe.” Her comments were met with thunderous applause.


The evening closed with a devastatingly powerful message from Mariam Azeez and her book, “Soulful Sydney.”  The book explores how we can teach children to be kind and help them understand different cultures by accepting them as brothers and sisters. When Mariam finished reading, the audience of 200 gave her a standing ovation.