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Baltimore Community Leaders Call For Change Amidst Hate Crime Rise

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — It was a worship service that turned to bloodshed, but the deadly shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue is just the latest hate crime to make headlines.

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Hate crimes are now up in most major cities, and there are people in Baltimore's community who want change, and who are determined to help each other 'heal the divide' so many are feeling after what happened last weekend in Pittsburgh.

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"It was disbelief, just disbelief that this could happen in America," said former President of Baltimore Jewish Council Martha Weiman.

And yet, it happened again. Another hate crime attack with eleven people killed in their place of worship.

Days before, two African-Americans were killed in a Kroger grocery store, months before that, chilling threats are made to mosques in Silver Spring, Md. It called for Muslims to be slaughtered.

"Regardless of which faith community is targeted, an attack on any one faith community is an attack on all," said Dr. Zainab Chaudry, the Director of Maryland Outreach for CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Hate that has left the nation reeling again, and Americans dealing with an all-too-frequent reality.

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"I think my fright and worry lies with my children and grandchildren who haven't experienced anti-semitism before, I come from Europe and I have experienced and I know what it's like with the Holocaust," Weiman said.

"Violence is normal and when it came up on news that made sense to me, that's just the culture of America and when you live in a society that doesn't value life, that's what happens as a result," said Adam Jackson, CEO of Leaders Of A Beautiful Struggle.

[WJZ's Rick Ritter asking Jackson]: "You just sat there and said violence is normal, how sad is that we expect that as a country that's where we are?"

"Mass shootings to me, I wake up every day and see news stories and coverage about violence in black communities all the time, the way we talk about those things is normal, but its abnormal when it happens in other places," Jackson replied.

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Their fear is that people will stop being outraged.

"I felt just kind of defeated, thinking this is the next new cycle, and we'll talk about this the next four days and then move on and in a few weeks there's another mass shooting," said Gabriela Roque, a community organizer for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA).

When asked what can people do moving forward, Dr. Chaudry said, "I think we also have to be in a place where we can feel comfortable having uncomfortable conversations,"

"The question is what are you going to do to participate in organizations and programs to empower your community so you can actually transform conditions around you," Jackson said.

"We're going to get through this standing up for one another," Chaudry said.

"Nothing is going to intimidate me," Weiman said.

"People just want to be able to live in peace and not have to worry about not being able to come home at the end of the day," Roque said.

Officials noted a 57 percent increase in anti-semitic incidents nationwide last year compared to 2016, that marks the biggest spike since 1979.

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