After Christchurch, Pittsburgh, and Other Acts of Terror, How Do We Combat Hate... Together?
Last Tuesday, following the mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, I spoke at an interfaith vigil at my local mosque to memorialize the terror victims.
Why me? I am a Reform Jew who has, for the last three years, taught high school science at the mosque's parochial school – and it has been a remarkable experience. I've been able to build bridges with parents and students at the mosque, and in return, our Jewish community has also been educated through the outreach I do.
Here is the address I gave.
I stand before you a proud Jew. I am proud of my heritage. I am proud of my people and our contributions to the world.
I also stand before you as a human who is horrified by the events in New Zealand.
I stand before you as a human who is sickened by the despicable and cowardly acts of yet another white terrorist.
And I stand before you as a human who is terrified for all who identify as part of a marginalized people or culture.
Why am I terrified? Because they are coming. No – they are here. And as these despicable cowards become normalized in our world, we must stay strong. And we must stand together against these cowards of hate.
At Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, they came for the LGBTQ+ community, and we stood together.
At Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue, they came for the Jews, and we stood together.
At Charleston’s Emanuel AME church, they came for our African-American brethren, and we stood together.
In Christchurch, at Masjid al Noor and Linwood Masjid, they came for our Muslim brothers and sisters – and again, we must stand together.
What can we do against the cowards of hate?
Judaism, my faith, preaches that the greatest of all pursuits is the study of Torah: the Old Testament, the five books of Moses, the Pentateuch. But my faith, I am afraid, is wrong. The greatest pursuit of all is tikkun olam, to heal the world.
What must we do to heal the world? We must labor as one.
We must stand together; with resolve and calm and unity between faiths and genders and orientation.
We must be vigilant. When we hear threats of violence against any of our marginalized citizens, we must report it. When we see threats become action, we must stand, literally, with the oppressed. Take photos and video. Report these actions, large or small, to the authorities and the media.
We must provide support. When tragedy strikes, we must attend rallies. We must attend memorials and vigils and marches. We must donate: time, money, goods, effort, blood – to support those who have been terrorized by the cowards of hate.
We must have our voices heard. We must flood the world with the magnitude of our solidarity. Social media, the traditional media, over the backyard fence and at the barber shop and beauty salon and the local pub – everywhere – we must speak out at every turn against hate in all its ugly forms.
Do not waste your breath on those who support the cowards of hate. Instead, speak out loudly – so loudly so that those too terrified to speak will understand that when we speak as one, our voices will tear down the walls of hate, as if we are Joshua’s horns before Jericho.
We must drown the cowards of hate in a tsunami of resistance.
Join me as I say: Elioum, ‘ana Muslim. Today, I am a Muslim.
Join me as I say: Today, we stand as one.
Join me as I say: The cowards of hate will not defeat us.
See "Jewish Resources for Coping with Acts of Terror" for more ways to respond to the Christchurch shootings and other hate-fueled acts of violence.