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Poway, CA: A Response to Hate

Posted on Tuesday, April 30, 2019 by Elka Abrahamson

Shabbat/Yom Tov was beautiful here in Bexley, Ohio. I was, for the first time, saying Yizkor for my father, z"l, who died in November. The final day of Pesach was (finally) warm enough for a pleasant walk to shul. The light of the spring morning came pouring through the stained-glass windows. It was so perfect a day that a well-intended congregant innocently opened the door to the outside so we could all enjoy the warm breeze and the welcome sight of leafy green trees. 

I admit it. The thought crossed my mind that opening the door was ill advised. It faces a busy street. I felt vulnerable, but I swiftly silenced my inner voice. We are safe here! It's a friendly community of caring people. Nobody is going to...

Later that evening the breaking news about San Diego pierced my soul. How can this be happening again? Again, exactly six months after the horrendous attack at Etz Chaim Congregation we learn of another deadly antisemitic crime at a synagogue during Shabbat services. What is the source of such hatred? What propels a teenager to murder innocent Jews in prayer? How do we respond meaningfully to the news that an innocent woman, Lori Gilbert Kaye, was killed on the morning she came to say the Yizkor prayers for her father who died in November in her friendly community of Poway?

May the memory of Lori Gilbert Kaye, z"l, be for a blessing. We are devastated by her senseless death. May those wounded know healing of body and mind. May the first responders be safe in all of their courageous work. May our community leaders continue to comfort and be comforted in their shock and grief.

I am reading many calls to action and appreciate them all. I hear a renewed determination to stem the tide of hate, to work toward unity and against the policies and the rhetoric that divide us. I am grateful for every mournful statement and for each suggested response. I consider carefully every action item designed to end the cycle of racism, antisemitism and hatred. My outrage and my sadness are best channeled into doing something more, something else, something to move our society back toward tolerance. Again.

Let us all work toward a world where the synagogue door, the church door, the mosque door swings open on a spring morning, and none shall be afraid.

Rabbi B. Elka Abrahamson is President of The Wexner Foundation. She can be reached here.