$1 million gift to Jewish Federation in Rochester will create Center To End Hate

On Wednesday, the William and Mildred Levine Foundation announced a $ 1 million gift to the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester. It will help to establish the Levine Center to End Hate at the Jewish Federation. (Photo: Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester)

Rochester, N.Y. - Within the local Jewish community, shootings in the recent year have inspired an effort to build unity.

A $1 million donation to the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester will help fight hate.

Todd Levine, President of William and Mildred Levine Foundation, says he decided to make a donation after a mass shooting in Charleston, South Carolina in August 2017. This money will go towards a program that brings together youth of different backgrounds, to embrace their differences, rather than fear each other.

“I want my children to be raised in a world of tolerance and love and understand that difference is good; it’s not bad," Levine said.

He added that it’s been a tough year, explaining to his kids why some people commit hate crimes, including the attack at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.

“It’s not just what happened this weekend, it’s not just what happened last month, it’s not what happened last year. This is looking at over a long period of time. We just continue to see more hatred not only big events," he said.

That’s why he’s donating $1 million to the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester.

Staff will soon start outreach groups, talking to middle and high schoolers about the roots of hate crimes.

Karen Elam, Director of the Levine Center, says she’ll go to schools, giving a diverse group of youth a chance to talk.

“It’s dialogue for sure, and that’s a starting point,’ she said. “But also, what good can we be doing together that brings people of different background together to do that?”

She’s part of a steering committee that will explore ways to give the community a safe place to talk about hate and bias.

Meredith Dragon, CEO of the Federation, added, “We see what happens in Pittsburgh. It’s a big incident, but what we don’t see is the incidents that happen day in and day out the incidents of racism and affect our society every day, or Islamophobia or homophobia. We want our kids to be safe and proud of who they are.”

Levine says it's a step in the right direction.

“A lot of hate comes from not understanding people and we’re educating them on differences and bringing them together," he said. "Being upset and being mad and frustrated is not enough. You have to take action. By making this investment, we’re stepping in and saying ‘we’ve had enough. It’s time for change.’”

The $1 million will be used over the next four years for staff to bring workshops out to the community. Levine says he hopes to expand this effort, and have conversations about hate crimes with adults too.

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