MAHONING VALLEY Girl, 13, promotes tolerance campaign
The girl will speak to Jews, Muslims and Christians.
By D.A. WILKINSON
VINDICATOR RELIGION EDITOR
YOUNGSTOWN -- A 13-year-old girl from Massachusetts is bringing a message of tolerance to the Mahoning Valley.
Hanna Hoy of Hamilton, Mass., will speak at several locations Sunday and Monday.
The teen-ager appeared on the "Today Show" on March 28 to discuss her role in asking her hometown to become part of the No Place for Hate campaign.
The campaign was created by the Anti-Defamation League with the Massachusetts Municipal Association in 1999, to provide communities with a way to fight hate and bigotry. Communities that approve a declaration then form a coalition of groups that must complete three activities.
Rejecting proposal: More than 50 Massachusetts municipalities are taking part, but Hamilton officials said no, citing a variety of reasons. It's the only community in the state to reject the proposal.
Hanna's father, Steven Hoy, said the issue will now come up for a public vote at a town meeting May 6. Town officials may be ordered to enact the program.
"Many of the reactions from the other communities and people in Hamilton was that it's a no-brainer," Steven Hoy said.
Still, an alliance of white supremacists has come out in support of the town officials, he noted.
Hanna's father, a psychotherapist, said, "I've seen in my practice that hate is an incredible waste of energy. So many people are channeling effort, whether it's an imaginary or real threat, into perpetuating the walls that people put around themselves in a community.
"The community can only benefit by channeling that energy into bridge-building instead of wall-building," he said.
Other than her appearance on "Today," this will be Hanna's first trip outside Massachusetts to discuss the program.
Reason for visit: Rabbi Simeon Kolko of Ohev Tzedek-Shaarei Torah Congregation in Boardman has spearheaded the youth's appearance.
Rabbi Kolko said he saw the youth on television and decided quickly to offer an invitation. As it turned out, Hanna's appearance will coincide with her spring break.
Another reason for the visit is the continuation of conflicts in the world.
"They may tear us farther apart," said Rabbi Kolko, "or we can do something that will bring us closer together."
Hanna will speak at 9:30 a.m. Sunday at Rodef Sholom Temple in Youngstown. The temple is the site of the Jewish community's Hebrew school for youths in grades eight to 10.
Interfaith: Several Muslim youths have been invited and are expected to attend, said Dr. Mustansir Mir, who heads Youngstown State University's Islamic studies department.
Mir said people should make an effort to try to solve problems that divide people.
Hanna attends both a Unitarian Universalist church and a Christian Congregation church.
Hanna will also speak at several other locations:
UThe junior high youth group at St. Charles Church in Boardman, at 6:30 p.m. Sunday.
UThe annual meeting of the Mahoning Valley Association of Churches, at noon Monday at Zion Lutheran Church in Cornersburg.
UAt Salem High School's cafeteria, from 7:50 a.m. to noon Monday. She'll speak to social-studies students in grades nine and 10.
High School Principal Scott Beatty said there had been several minor equality-related incidents at the school recently.
Hanna's talk, Beatty said, "is a beginning. Every little bit helps."