Temple Shalom’s Response to the Pittsburgh Shooting. This speech was delivered by our Temple President at the interfaith Memorial Service- 11/8/18
Good evening everyone. Thank you for coming.
Saturday, October 27th, 2018, marks the worst attack on on American Jewry in US history. Eleven congregants were shot by a man, who made a choice to kill, based only on the fact that they were Jews. The incident is a stern reminder of the dangers of hate, that within living memory of the Holocaust, we are fielding homegrown anti Semitic terrorists. Our hearts and minds are with the families of the victims in solidarity and mourning.
We as the Jewish People have faced many such calamities in our 40 century history, and have come from them saying in the words of Our Father Jacob, “I will not let go until you bless me.” Or in my interpretation, until we have learned that which there is to be learned.
I hope that we in our community of Yakima, Jews and Non-Jews, can learn 3 things from this.
First: Baseless hatred requires constant vigilance. An age old hatred that had been relegated to the shameful fringes of society has donned new masks and crept out of the shadows under new names, but whispering the same arguments. I was recently forced to end a friendship over a post on Facebook, featuring a cartoon blaming the Rothschilds for our social woes, drawn in the same style as the Nazi propaganda of the 1930s. To exacerbate the issue, he was forcefully unaware of how this could possibly be antisemitic. And then again this week, I had a conversation with someone who was earnestly stating that mainstream Christianity is also the recipient of antisemitism. America has lived in the privilege of ebbing hatred so long we are forgetting what it looks like, and what it is not. As such, we must be extra careful in our dealings with our neighbors, coworkers, and family members to say no, we will not allow hateful speech to progress unchecked in our families, in our communal organizations, and in our media. Everyone has the right to free speech, but we also have the right to contradict.
Second: In the often quoted words made most famous by Martin Luther King, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that.” This is appropriate as we in the Jewish Community approach Hanukkah, the festival of lights. Though I would like to change the quote from love, to compassion. Being a pragmatic person, and coming from a religious tradition with a strong pragmatic streak, I find it impractical to ask you to love everyone. I do not love, and will never ask you to love, the terrorist who shoots up a synagogue, a school, bombs a railway, stabs a family in their own neighborhood, or preaches that others should do so. However, like the Jewish Doctor who treated the wounds received by the terrorist in Pittsburgh, I expect of myself, and ask of all of you, senseless acts of compassion. The world is poisoned by acts of baseless hatred. Perhaps we together can save it, through acts of baseless compassion. Even and especially, to those we don’t love. As in our homes, the menorah sheds its light more brightly as the world gets darker, may we fill the world with light, even as darkness seems to close in around us.
Third: One quote that stood out to me in the myriad of news articles concerning the shooting, came from the terrorist’s neighbor. “I wish I would have known.” We cannot stop what we do not know. On top of my request to you for senseless acts of compassion, I would ask that you don’t forget the sensible relationships around you. Sometimes all it can take is one interaction to save one or more lives. One person you see every day, who knows who you are, and what you stand for, could make the difference between routine and disaster. One night at your dinner table, at a shared activity, at a communal event could change the course of a life whether you know it or not. We are all subject to the butterfly effect, may we remember what effect we have, and hope that the choices we make are able to build and maintain the kind of community we want to live in.
Again on behalf of the Jewish Community of Yakima, Thank you for your support, and thank you for being present her tonight.