They waved signs, chanted, sang, hugged, and cried to make a point outside a Jewish community center in Cherry Hill on Tuesday -- to denounce a wave of anti-Semitism that has struck the nation.
About 200 people gathered for a peaceful rally at a busy intersection in front of the Katz Jewish Community Center on Springdale and Kresson Roads. An announcement for the event read, "Hate has no home here."
Organizer Christine Berk, 39, of New York City, said she planned the rally in less than 24 hours to send a message to the community and those responsible for bomb threats at the center and elsewhere that forced evacuations Monday.
"I felt like I needed to do something," said Berk, an art therapist who grew up in Cherry Hill and whose mother lives there. "Everybody should feel safe. The message is that there are more people that care than don't care."
There were parents carrying supportive signs, pushing their children in strollers and toting dogs. The crowd included people of all races and religions - neighbors and strangers who quickly became friends.
"It's what America is all about," said Dave Lipshutz, 62, of Voorhees, a lawyer. "Everyone has each other's back."
Azmatullah Hussaini, who attended the rally with his wife, Afia, and their three children, echoed those sentiments. His son, Sufyan, 8, held up a sign that read, "Our Muslim family stands with our Jewish neighbors."
"We stand against oppression of any kind," said Hussaini, 36, a physician at Virtua Hospital in Voorhees. "We have to fight for each other."
The Katz center was among several Jewish institutions in the region that were evacuated Monday morning because of bomb threats. The Perelman Jewish Day School (Stern Center) and the Kaiserman JCC in Wynnewood also received threats.
Earlier Tuesday, it was business as usual at the Cherry Hill center, a hub for the Jewish community in South Jersey. Some members vowed to return to resume their regular activities, to make a statement of defiance against Monday's threats.
"Life today is a new normal, and we continue to strive for safety and security while continuing to love our lives fully and with full participation in the Jewish community. We are truly blessed," said Jennifer Dubrow Weiss, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey, which is housed in the center.
The crowd began arriving shortly before 5 p.m. on a corner across from Temple Emanuel. The event was shared mostly through social media. Cherry Hill police were nearby, but the rally was peaceful. Chief William Monaghan and Mayor Chuck Cahn posed for photos with groups of demonstrators.
"It's very unfortunate that we have to be here," Cahn said. "There's no place for hatred and ignorance."
There were no speeches during the rally, which lasted about 90 minutes, until a steady rain put a damper on the event. There were occasional outbursts of chants of "deport hate." An interfaith group of women sang religious songs. The crowd joined in for a round of "God Bless America."
"There's been an unleashing of bigotry and hateful sentiment," said Farhat Biviji of Cherry Hill, a founding member of the Jewish-Catholic-Muslim dialogue group of South Jersey. "The only way we can counteract it is to show love and brotherhood."
Motorists passing during the evening rush hour honked their horns in support. A demonstrator waved a sign that read, "Make America kind again."
"We want to be a visible sign for the community that we do care about each other," said Pat Sandrow, co-president of the Catholic-Jewish Commission of Southern New Jersey. "We're all brothers and sisters and God's family, no matter what we call each other."
Established in the 1940s, the center is a sprawling complex that promotes Jewish heritage and culture. It has an early childhood center, a fitness center, an indoor swimming pool, and social and recreational programs that attract all ages.
Longtime member Howard Miron, 56, of Cherry Hill, said the bomb threats may have scared some members away. He said he plans to continue to go to the center.
"If you live in fear, you're not really living," said Miron, who works in supply management at Cooper University Hospital. "Once you stop doing what you normally do, they win."
Nationwide, 31 bomb threats were called into 23 JCCs and eight Jewish day schools, according to the JCC Association of America. Centers in Wilmington, York, Pa., and Harrisburg were also evacuated.
The FBI said that the agency and the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division are investigating possible civil rights violations in connection with the threats.
"The FBI will collect all available facts and evidence, and will ensure this matter is investigated in a fair, thorough, and impartial manner," a spokesman said Tuesday. He declined further comment.
Since January, there have been 90 threats around the country to Jewish institutions. No bombs have been found.
President Trump on Tuesday told attorneys general from across the country that the recent rash of attacks and threats against Jewish institutions was "reprehensible," but suggested that it might not only reflect anti-Semitism, according to Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro.
Sometimes, the president said, "the reverse can be true," Shapiro said, recalling the conversation at the White House. "Someone's doing it to make others look bad."
Shapiro said he found the comment "a bit curious."
When he addressed a joint session of Congress Tuesday night, Trump had a different position.
"Tonight, as we mark the conclusion of our celebration of Black History Month, we are reminded of our nation's path toward civil rights and the work that still remains. Recent threats targeting Jewish community centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week's shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms," he said shortly after greeting Congress and its leaders.
"Each American generation passes the torch of truth, liberty and justice — in an unbroken chain all the way down to the present," he continued. "That torch is now in our hands. And we will use it to light up the world."