NYC Rabbi and Imam tackle hate speech, stress compassion and hope in troubled times

Monday marks the beginning of Passover, one of the most important Jewish holidays. 

And while it traditionally is a time for celebration, this year has a much different tone due to the war in the Middle East.

New York City Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch leads the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue on the Upper West Side. This Passover, his mind and heart are occupied by the war in the Middle East, and the hostages that are still being held captivity by Hamas. 

"There's a heavy cloud over the entire Jewish world as we sit down to celebrate this festival of freedom. We're very concerned about Israel's security," Rabbi Hirsch said. 

Rabbi Hirsch told FOX 5 NY that he understands that these are difficult times that we're in right now, but he doesn't want people to lose hope. 

"Passover is the festival of hope and it's not it's not dumb hope. It's not fake hope. It's real hope in the faith, in, the human condition and those forces of liberty and freedom who eventually will prevail," Rabbi Hirsch said. 

Imam Shamsi Ali leads the Jamaica Muslim Center a Mosque in Queens. The Muslim holy month of Ramadan ended recently, and like Rabbi Hirsch, Ali is concerned about the rise of hate speech spreading on college campuses. 

"I can see the level of emotions  in our community, not only in student campuses but also in the community in general and that is my responsibility as a religious leader to remind them that religion is always, you know, about peace and love and compassion," Imam Ali said. 

He says he will be reminding the faithful in these times of his guiding principle. 

"To fight against Islamophobia, it is completely not fair without fighting antisemitism, because I see islamophobia and antisemitism is two sides of the same coin," Imam Ali said.