Today, October 2, 2018, at Sussex County Community College, Josh Gottheimer joined New Jersey Senator Oroho; Colleen Murch and Adam Stolarsky, the Hampton Township family whose home has been targeted by hate crimes; Newton Mayor Helen Le Frois; Sussex County Prosecutor Francis Koch; Sussex County Sheriff Michael Strada; Sussex County Community College President Dr. Jon Connolly, Sussex County Community College student Dustin Knipp, and Sussex County state and local elected officials, law enforcement, community leaders, and religious leaders to stand united against hate.
Below are Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery:
A year ago, after cowards had spray painted swastikas on the Airport Diner in Wantage, Steve Oroho and I sat together in unity at a booth in that diner, just hours after the community had come together to paint away the symbols of anti-Semitism. While Steve and I may not agree on everything, it was clear as day that we both share an abiding love for our community and a strong belief in a very simple idea – and the reason we are standing together again today: There is no place for hate in Sussex County. It’s not who we are, it’s not what we teach our children, and it’s certainly not what built our great country.
To the perpetrators of these crimes, I have a simple message for them: You’re not welcome here in Sussex County. You’re not welcome in our state. And you’re not welcome in the United States of America.
To law enforcement, to the State Police, and to the Sussex County Prosecutor, I want you to know just how grateful we are for your quick and thorough response and for staying on the case until we catch these hate-filled criminals.
To our community, I want to thank you for being such great neighbors and friends to Colleen and Adam, and, beyond that, for your willingness to speak out in unison for what is wrong, to stand up for what is right, and to pass along to your children the shared values we hold dear. And to our students who are here, it’s up to you to help us carry these ideals forward, to protect them, and to ensure that our best days are always ahead.
Today, I am proud to put all party labels aside, and stand shoulder-to-shoulder, in unity, with our elected officials, law enforcement, with our religious leaders, with business leaders, our students, and so many who’ve reached out with an open hand. You realize in moments like this that there is something much bigger that binds us together, and that is that we are all Americans. We all love our county and our country, and we know that we are weakest when we let others tear us apart, and we are at our best, when we when remember that our diversity is our great strength.
And that, to me, is the most important lesson we can pass on to our own children and to the students at Sussex Community College, the reason we came here this morning.
It’s been said that America is great, because she is good. And that’s doubly true these last days in Sussex.
The community is good because they stood together, this weekend, in Hampton for a Rally for Acceptance and Unity … The people of Sussex are good because Colleen and Adam heard directly from more than twenty of their neighbors offering a helping hand … Sussex is good because our business leaders including Alex Cable from Thor Labs and Greg Murphy from Selective and others came together and painted over the swastikas on their garage door and Sussex is good because, after each incident, one state and local official after another called to ask what they could do to help, including the many who wanted, but couldn’t be here today.
I’ll never forget the late-night call from the Governor offering extra help from the State Police to find these cowards. Or the Department of Transportation who sent a team at 2am Sunday morning to cover up the latest anti-Semitic slur spray-painted on the road outside Collee and Adam’s home. And I’ll never forget what Steve, Assemblymen Hal Wirth and Assemblyman Parker Space wrote, along with the Sussex County Republican Chairman Jerry Scanlan, “We all unequivocally condemn what some sick person has done. We hope the individual or individuals responsible for these appalling and disgusting actions are caught and charged with a hate crime.”
Their words and the unity of the Hampton community are why America has, for so many generations, overcome the scourge of hatred every time we’ve faced it. Whether it was anti-Irish sentiment and signs reading “No Irish Need Apply,” or Nazi Swastikas, or crosses burnings from the fires of the KKK, Americans have always found fortitude in our shared resilience, courage and unity.
More than anything, I’ll tell you, what’s given me the most me the most hope these last weeks was when I first got on the phone with Colleen and Adam, hours after they found a lawn sign and their garage covered with swastikas and racial slurs.
I’ll never forget what Colleen said to me, breaking through her tears: “I love my town, I love my community, I love my family,” she said. “I’m a mom, I’m a Christian, and I’m a proud Selective employee. My terrific kids,” — who I’ve met and they are wonderful – “they love their school, and have wonderful friends. And, yes, we’re a little scared. But, Josh, when can you get a new sign up on my lawn?” Colleen and Adam leaned in, and declared, as they did after the second attack, “We will not back down. They will not win.”
If that’s courage, I don’t know what is. And I went from being a little depressed – to very inspired.
Colleen and Adam: we are all here for you. You need not carry this burden alone. We will not back down. We will not be cowed. And, standing together, good will overcome hate.
Thank you, God bless you, and may God continue to bless and watch over our community and over the United States of America.
Below: Gottheimer delivers remarks at Sussex County Community College