Guest Column: Tree of Life

News of the horrific terror attack at Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh, Penn., shattered the Sabbath for Jews around the world this past Saturday, including for those of us here in Malibu. Surely, this attack of political and anti-Semitic hatred generated a deep sadness, anger and fear among all who value America’s religious freedom and life in a civil society.

We at the Malibu Jewish Center and Synagogue thank the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Department for their ongoing and constant protection of our community and all of Malibu.

The tragedy for the victims and their families is beyond ability to imagine. They are mourned not only by their families and community, but also by all who celebrate the ideal of our nation’s respect for and tolerance of fellow citizens whose color, ethnicity, sexual identity, gender, mother-tongue, religion and other qualities add to the wonderful diversity that characterizes the United States as a country whose society is “indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

In Jewish communities around the country and around the world, the response is one of shock, but not surprise. We Jews tend to see the world through “old eyes”—through the lens of our own experience and of world history. We are, unfortunately, not strangers to persecution and vicious hatred for the last 2,000 years. Yet until now, the experience of the Jewish community in the United States has been of religious and political freedom, as well as safety, almost without parallel or precedent.

And now… The Anti-Defamation League noted that Saturday’s crime was the worst perpetrated against the Jewish community in the history of the United States. We cannot disconnect this attack from so recent a memory as last year’s march of neo-Nazis through Charlottesville, Va., nor, for that matter, from the attack on a black church the year before that or the attempted attack on a black church reported Friday.

We also cannot disconnect this attack from the political terrorism perpetrated through the U.S. Postal Service last week. We cannot disconnect this attack from the rhetoric of misogyny, the language of hate, the kind of “us vs. them” worldview that too many of us fail to challenge when we hear it in jokes and comments, in platitudes and assumptions, and when it is used by those whom we have chosen as leaders.

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Has America grown tolerant of intolerance?  In this last decade or so of the lives of “The Greatest Generation,” who fought World War II and sacrificed themselves as soldiers by the hundreds of thousands to defeat the fascists, have we now possibly allowed the enemy to gain a foothold in our nation? The Nazi ideology was based on hatred of “The Other,” which included especially Jews, Roma [“Gypsies”] and homosexuals, was based on racial supremacy, misogyny and the deification of strength and power justifying the achievement of cruel and unjust ends with cruel and unjust means. Our democracy requires constant energy to oppose the insidious erosion of the values and ideals of freedom and tolerance that America stands for.

Next Friday night, on the eve of the conclusion of the week of mourning for the victims of Saturday’s attack, Malibu Jewish Center & Synagogue will host an interfaith service to which all Malibu residents are invited, from all religious faiths or of none. In this highly politicized, pre-election week, it is all the more important that our community can come together to honor the victims’ memory with a short memorial service, followed by prayers and songs that affirm what so many of us—from all backgrounds, beliefs, and election choices—feel about making our home here in Malibu: That our Malibu community is welcoming, inclusive, tolerant and peace-loving. 

Please join us at MJCS Friday night to pray together as one united community in Malibu. RSVP is required so we can manage parking effectively. The service begins at 7 p.m., but please arrive from 6:30 p.m. to allow time to enter through security.

May the memory of those killed at prayer and celebration at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Congregation be for a blessing. May the injured be healed completely, and may comfort and consolation somehow be found for those families thrust into mourning. May we hold tight to those we love and stand as a community to declare now and forever that our society—and the world—can no longer tolerate intolerance, that hatred, violence and fear must end. Oseh shalom bimromav, Hu ya’aseh shalom aleinu, v’al col yisrael, v’al col yoshvei tevel. May the One who makes peace in the highest heavens, make peace here for us, for all Israel and all the world. Amen.

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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