Another horribly deluded young white man has taken out his frustrations about his own life on others, shooting at Shabbat worshipers in a Chabad synagogue in California, taking the life of one, injuring three, and traumatizing many more. Including us, so many miles away in body but so close in spirit to those who were attacked.
The Washington Post called it a “hate crime.” By placing the words in quotation marks, they appear to be questioning the shooter’s motives. But there is no question. It was hatred, targeted at strangers for no reason other than their religion.
Just hours after this latest shooting, I was asked to remove our congregation’s name from the sign outside the Southgate Community Center, where we meet every week. After the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue just six months ago, our board of directors voted to display our name for only 75 minutes, starting an hour before services and ending 15 minutes after we begin.
While I do not think that we should intentionally make ourselves a target, I do not believe we should remove our name from the sign. We cannot allow ourselves to be forced into secrecy, hiding from potential threats.
Silence is not the answer. Hiding is not the answer. Stronger guns laws are not the answer –even if all gun sales ended tomorrow, we would still be endangered by the millions of weapons in private hands across our nation. And just days ago we watched three churches burn in Louisiana, and we know that we cannot legislate away the tools of arson.
“Murder in places of worship is not beyond comprehension. And silence is not acceptable as a response,” Rabbi Evan Krame wrote this morning.
He’s right. It is time for Jews, Muslims, Christians, and atheists, for all people of good conscience to speak out. Together. Loudly.
Time to link arms in prayer and in community service, to call and write and lobby our legislators on every level – city, state, and nation – to strengthen hate laws, to curb gun violence, to graphically demonstrate that attacks on any place of worship, on any person because of their race or religion, are unacceptable. We must ferret out the white supremacists and racists who spew hate speech on social media and the internet and expose them for the cowards they are.
When a church burns, we all burn. When Muslims and Jews are shot in their houses of worship, we all bleed.
On Friday night my congregation held a Yizkor service and recited memorial prayers, remembering family and friends who died, some as recently as days ago, some lifetimes ago. We hold their names and memories in our hearts, knowing that they enriched our lives.
In their honor, in honor of Lori Gilbert-Kaye who died this Shabbat in the Chabad synagogue, in honor of the hundreds who died in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, and in honor of the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust, we must continue to speak our truth, continue to work for justice, continue to strive to make our world a place where this never happens again. And if it does happen again? Then we will continue. We can do no less.