BRIDGING THE DIVIDE

Community leaders from different faiths are joining forces to end gun violence in the tri-state.

Aired on June 4, 2019.

TRANSCRIPT

> GOOD EVENING.

WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

IN THE WAKE OF NEW ZEALAND'S TRAGIC SHOOTING AT CHRISTCHURCH MOSQUE, FAITH LEADERS ACROSS THE GLOBE ARE SPEAKING OUT EVEN MORE AGAINST GUN VIOLENCE PLAGUING THEIR COMMUNITIES.

IN AN EFFORT TO SAVE LIVES, MANY DENOMINATIONS ARE COMING TOGETHER TO NOT ONLY FIND NEW SOLUTIONS BUT TO GET TO THE ROOT OF HATEFUL AMONG THOSE LEADERS, EVAN BERNSTEIN, THE REGIONAL DIRECTOR OF THE ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE AND THE PRESIDENT OF THE 67th PRECINCT CLERGY COUNCIL, BETTER KNOWN AS THE GOD SQUAD, ARE WORKING TO MAKE BROOKLYN SAFER.

THEY TEAMED UP TO SPEAK AT THE CLERGY PREVENTION GUN SUMMIT.

FIRST TELL US ABOUT THIS SUMMIT AND WHAT WAS THAT IT TOOK PLACE?

SO THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

SO THE SUMMIT WAS REALLY LOOKING AT BEST PRACTICES FOR FAITH LEADERS TO REDUCE GUN VIOLENCE.

NORMALLY WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT FAITH LEADERS AND GUN VIOLENCE, THERE WAS NOT A DIRECT COALITION BETWEEN WHAT EXACTLY THEY CAN DO TO REDUCE GUN VIOLENCE AND OVER THE PAST TEN YEARS, MYSELF AND THE GOD SQUAD IN EAST FLAT BUSH HAVE BEEN WORKING ON SPECIFIC WAYS ON HOW TO REDUCE THE VIOLENCE.

WE TOOK TEN YEARS OF EXPERIENCE, PUT IT INTO A FEW HOURS, AND DISPATCH IT, AND RELEASE TO IT FAITH LEADERS FROM AROUND THE CITY.

WHAT DOES TEN YEARS OF EXPERIENCE LOOK LIKE WHEN IT IS CONDENSED?

25 FUNERALS.

MULTIPLE SHOOTING RESPONSES ON THE STREET.

A LOT OF VISITS IN HOSPITALS, COMFORTING FAMILIES, WORKING ON THE STREET WITH AREAS WITH WHICH WE CALL HOT SPOTS WHERE WE KNOW FOR SURE THAT THE GANG MEMBERS, IT CALLS FOR CUTTING HAIR FOR CHILDREN GOING BACK TO SCHOOL, BEING ROLE MODELS, FOR THE FAITH LEADERS TO TAKE AN ACTIVE APPROACH, WE MUST DO THE WORK ON THE STREET LEVEL.

OKAY.

SO EVAN, WE'VE HAD YOU ON THE SHOW SEVERAL TIMES TO TALK ABOUT TRAGEDY THAT'S HAVE HAPPENED AND USUALLY OUR CONVERSATIONS TEND TO BE MORE MACRO ABOUT WHAT THE LARGER ISSUE OF WHAT'S GOING.

ON I'M HEARING THE REVEREND DESCRIBE IS MUCH MORE MICRO ON THE STREET.

IT COMES DOWN TO PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS.

I GOT TO KNOW HIM A FEW YEARS AGO AROUND HIS WORK.

WORKING WITH FAITH BASED INSTITUTIONS AND WE HAVE A GREAT RELATIONSHIP WITH THE NYPD AND THE FBI AND THEY'RE ABLE TO PARTNER ON THAT.

FROM THAT, IT BECAME A FRIENDSHIP.

A REAL CONVERSATION ABOUT THE WORKS THAT WE DO.

AND THROUGH THOSE CONVERSATIONS, LEARNING ABOUT WHAT THE GOD SQUAD IS DOING AND HOW IMPORTANT IT IS.

IT IS A CIVIL RIGHTS ORGANIZATION.

GUN RIGHTS IS SOMETHING WE'VE TAKEN A STAND ON AND HE BELIEVE THERE NEEDS TO BE MORE WORK DONE THERE.

THIS TO ME WAS A NATURAL MARRIAGE FOR US TO HELP.

WE'RE A MACRO ORGANIZATION TO A CERTAIN SENTENCE.

TO BE ABLE TO HELP WITH THE MISSION WAS A WAY FOR US TO UNDERSTAND WHAT WAS GOING ON IN THE COMMUNITY.

I HAD TOTALLY DIFFERENT KINDS OF THOUGHTS AND WHAT WE COULD DO.

LIKE ANTI-BIAS WORK.

WHEN I LEARNED ABOUT GUN VIOLENCE, IT WAS AN OPPORTUNITY TO STAND TOGETHER.

WE WENT TO ISRAEL TOGETHER.

MORE AND MORE SOLIDIFIED US WANTING TO THEN GOD SQUAD AND DO THE WORK WITH PREVENTING GUN VIOLENCE IN NEW YORK.

WHEN IT COMES TO THE WORK THAT YOU'RE DOING, WE MENTIONED AT THE BEGINNING OF THE PIECE, GETTING TO THE ROOT OF HATE.

AND IT SOUNDS MORE LIKE WHAT YOU'RE GETTING TO THE ROOT OF IS MORE OF INEQUITY AND INEQUALITY.

SOME OF THE SOCIAL ISSUES THAT CAN PLAGUE SOME OF THE POORER COMMUNITIES THAT ARE SUFFERING SOME OF THE GUN VIOLENCE ISSUES.

THAT'S RIGHT.

WHEN YOU LOOK AT CROWN HEIGHTS, THE ANTI-SEMITISM.

EVEN THOUGH I DON'T EQUATE IT WITH NONVIOLENCE, I THINK THERE'S A LINK BETWEEN THE RESOURCES.

I THINK THAT OVER AND OVER AGAIN, WHAT WE NEED TO REMEMBER IS THAT HATE IS A HUMAN CONDITION ACROSS THE BOARD AND IN BETWEEN.

THE WORK WE DO IS TRY TO MAKE SURE THAT WE TRY TO MEET SPECIFICALLY THOSE INDIVIDUALS WHERE THEY ARE IN THE COMMUNITY.

AND FIGURE OUT WAYS TO HELP THEM OUT AND TO GIVE THEM A HAND WITH THE SITUATION.

WE DON'T TELL GANG MEMBERS TO LEAD GANGS.

WHAT WE TRY TO DO IS GIVE THEM RESOURCES TO MAKE THEIR OWN DECISIONS IN TERMS OF HOW THEY WANT TO LIVE THEIR LIFE.

BUT THE IMPORTANCE IS THAT WE MUST BE AT THE PLACE WHERE THEY ARE TO GIVE THEM THE OPPORTUNITIES IN WHICH THEY NEED.

NOT TO PIVOT TOO FAR AWAY FROM BROOKLYN BUT I DO NEED TO ASK BUT YOUR REASON TRIP TO POLAND.

SPEAKING OF OPENING LINES OF COMMUNICATION AND HAVING THOSE CONVERSATIONS.

FIRST OF ALL, TELL US WHY YOU WERE ALL THE WAY INFLUENCED.

SO WE WENT TO ISRAEL TOGETHER I REALIZED THAT THIS WASN'T A TREMENDOUS KNOWLEDGE OF THE HISTORY OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE AND A LOT OF KNOWLEDGE THEY HAD OF THE HOLOCAUST WAS REALLY DEFINED BETWEEN 1939 AND 1945.

AND IT WAS ONE BRIEF EXPERIENCE.

AN AMAZING MUSEUM BUT TILL A MUSEUM.

AND AS THINGS RAMPED UP OVER THE LAST SIX, EIGHT MONTHS, WE SAW MORE AND MORE ASSAULTS TAKING PLACE.

I WAS TRYING TO THINK OF A WAY THAT AN ORGANIZATION, HOW CAN WE GET PEOPLE TO UNDERSTAND AND TALKING AND HAVING CONVERSATIONS.

THE FIRST THING THAT CAME TO MY MIND.

PEOPLE NEED TO GO TO POLAND, TO AUSCHWITZ, THEY NEED TO SEE WHERE THE WARSAW GHETTO WAS.

IF SOMEONE COULD EXPERIENCE THAT, MAY BE IT WOULD HELP THEM BE ABLE TO COMMUNICATE KIND OF THE JEWISH STORY IN A DIFFERENT WAY AND HAVE A GOOD PERSPECTIVE.

THE FIRST THING I THOUGHT OF WAS MY FRIEND WHO COULD GIVE AN OPINION AND WHETHER OR NOT THIS WOULD BE WORTH CONTINUING AND WILL IT HAVE IMPACT.

AND I THINK ON EVERYTHING THAT WE'VE DISCUSSED DURING AND POST TRIP.

IT IS SOMETHING AS A LOT OF MERIT TO HELP CONTINUE THE CONVERSATION.

AND PASTOR MONROE, WHAT WAS YOUR TAKE ON THAT TRIP?

SO ONE OF THE THINGS WAS THAT A LOT OF TIMES, THEY CALL TO HELP AND STAND ON THE ISSUES.

AND I SAID TO HIM, YOU HAVE TO STAND ON THE ISSUES AS WELL.

YOU HAVE TO UNDERSTAND WHERE YOU COME FROM AND UNDERSTAND ALL THE PAIN AND ALL THE SUFFERING.

YOU HAVE TO UNDERSTAND THE COMMUNITY AND THE NEIGHBORHOODS.

YOU HAVE TO UNDERSTAND WHAT WE DID EVERY SINGLE DAY SO I NEED TO UNDERSTAND WHERE YOU'RE COMING FROM.

YOUR PAIN AND YOUR SUFFERING AND HISTORY.

I THINK WE'RE BONDED BY OUR PAST, WE'RE CONNECTED WITH OUR PRESENT AND CONNECTED WITH OUR FUTURE.

SO FOR ME, GOING TO POLAND, I THINK THAT A LOT OF THE PLACES THAT WE HAVE BEEN TO, THE HISTORY THAT WE SAW, WE FELT, IT HELPS ME POSITION MYSELF TO SPEAK CLEARLY AND UNDERSTANDING IN A DEEPER SENSE WHAT THE JEWISH COMMUNITY IS GOING THROUGH SO WHEN I SPEAK, I CAN SPEAK FROM A STANDPOINT OF KNOWLEDGE, EMPATHY, BUT ALSO FROM EXPERIENCE AS WELL.

I THINK IT IS BEAUTIFUL THAT YOU HAVE CREATE THIS LINE OF COMMUNICATION EVEN THOUGH WE ARE THIS INCREDIBLY MULTICULTURAL CITY, WE CAN MANAGE TO LIVE IN OUR SEPARATE BUBBLES.

SO THE MORE COMMUNICATION AND UNDERSTANDING WE CAN HAVE OF EACH OTHER'S EXPERIENCES AND LIVES, I WOULD HOPE THAT WOULD DEFINITELY BE ABLE TO CHANGE SOME OF THE VIT OUTXOMS WE'VE SEEN.

THANK YOU BOTH FOR JOINING US ON THE PROGRAM.

THANK YOU.

ABSOLUTELY.

WE'LL HAVE YOU BACK AGAIN.

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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