Rockville Centre community unites to ‘Break the Hate’


Nearly 100 people in the Rockville Centre community gathered on the front steps of Congregation B’nai Sholom-Beth David on Sunday afternoon to film a short video condemning antisemitism and all forms of hate.

“Break the Hate” is part of a global social media campaign that was created by Aliza Licht and a group of like-minded individuals, to encourage people to unite and stand up against bigotry and hate on the internet.

The idea for the “Break the Hate” campaign originated following the October 7th attacks, and the reaction from people in protest of Israel, which has led to an increase in antisemitic hate speech across the world.

Inspired by this message, the synagogue rallied together with members of the Rockville Centre Police Department and elected officials to create a short video with a powerful message—that hate is not welcome in this village.

The concept was simple. Each participant was given a sheet of paper with the word, “HATE,” written across it. One at a time, each person tore their paper in half, symbolically breaking the chain of hatred from spreading.

Nancy Hochhauser, president of the temple, said she was motivated to organize the event due to the the alarming number of antisemtic incidents taking place around the world.

“It was important that our Congregation, along with our Rockville Centre friends, officials, and politicians, denounce antisemitism and all forms of hate as a community,” Hochhauser said. “My hope is that other synagogues and religious organizations do a similar video and the campaign goes viral.”

U.S. Rep. Anthony D’Esposito also said he recognizes that there has been a rampant increase in the number of hate crimes and antisemitic attacks across the country.

“I think this video is a good way for local communities and stakeholders to gather together and really send the message that we are not going to tolerate that,” D’Esposito said. “I think that hate is a word that is used across this country too often and I think that now, more than ever, when our communities are dividing, we need to break this hate.”

Rabbi David Lerner said that the overall message of the “Break the Hate” campaign seamlessly aligns with the values and mission of the synagogue as a whole. “Our temple’s major mission is community relations and finding solutions to issues plaguing our society.” 

Lerner expressed how social media tends to promote more negativity, suggesting that the best way to combat this is to use the platform to help spread positivity and unity online.

“There is so much negative content out there on social media,” Lerner said. “The more you put positive content out there, you’re sort of adding to the algorithm to get more positive messages out there too.”

He also indicated that social media could be a great tool to try and spread this message to other communities in the surrounding area, and encourage them to join as well.

In recent years, Rockville Centre has taken a much more proactive approach to try and address issues relating to discrimination and hate. In September 2022, the village officially passed a resolution pledging to combat antisemitism and educate residents on ways to identify and report such acts when they occur. 

“Since even before October 7, there was an increase in the uptick of antisemitism,” Lerner said. “But we’ve had great support from the community.”

Efforts to implement a policy began following a spree of antisemitic incidents, culminating with reports of hateful literature being spread across the south shore. Prior to that the village was host to two rallies organized by the far-right, neo-fascist militant group, known as the Proud Boys. There was also one instance where a resident made national headlines after sharing antisemitic remarks about her neighbors.

Ever since then, the village has been working hard to maintain a zero tolerance policy against any form of antisemitism or hate speech.

This call to action, however, extends far beyond the confines of just one event. Hochhauser encourages those individuals who were not able to attend, contribute by sharing their own “Break the Hate” videos. She also encouraged people to wear blue square pins as part of the Robert Kraft “Stand Up to Jewish Hate” campaign as well.

Hochhauser also emphasized the work of the temple’s Never Again committee, a group of congregants dedicated to combating antisemitism through education, advocacy and partnerships.

While the world grapples with rising tensions and divisions, the actions of the Rockville Centre community serve as a beacon of hope and resilience. Through the unity and solidarity of residents, they are breaking down barriers and paving a way for a future free from bigotry.