The horrific murder of 11 Jewish worshipers at the Tree of Life * Or L’Simcha synagogue in Pittsburgh was the latest manifestation of the increasing level of hate in our society. This tragedy, combined with the murder of two fellow Louisvillians in a Kroger parking lot simply because of their race, has left us shocked and heartbroken.
These hate crimes are a stark reminder that anti-Semitism and racism are growing in America.
But the outpouring of kindness in the aftermath of these two jarring events should be recognized and celebrated and is also the first step towards creating real change.
These recent hate crimes are a stark reminder that anti-Semitism and racism are growing in America, but the outpouring of kindness in the aftermath of these events should be recognized and celebrated as the first step towards creating real change.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, anti-Semitic incidents have risen 56 percent in the last year, a staggering increase and objective proof that hate crime is getting worse.
Anti-Semitism has never really gone away, Jewish history teaches us. It is something we deal with on a regular basis. The hate-filled march in Charlottesville last year illustrated what is happening in our country. Hate is increasing, and extremist groups feel more emboldened to go public with their ugly messages.
Life is precious; when it is taken away so senselessly, everyone needs to respond. Our Jewish community has felt the embrace from many people of different faiths who stood side-by-side with us. Hundreds of individuals from all backgrounds attended a community vigil on October 28 to remember the victims of the shootings in Pittsburgh and Louisville, and they participated in services a week later at our synagogues as part of a national “Show Up for Shabbat” initiative. Our compassionate city spoke loud and clear, repudiating hate and violence.
Our Torah teaches that we should love the stranger, because we were once strangers in the land of Egypt, so the Jewish Community of Louisville (JCL) is undertaking a new campaign, #LoveTheStranger, which is intended to share hope and compassion wherever it is needed and wherever barriers between people need to come down.
This new campaign will create greater understanding, dialogue and friendships between people of different backgrounds – something that recent events have reminded us is of the utmost urgency – through actions, activities and programming.
We are asking for our community to take some time to do acts of loving kindness and post on social media with the hashtag #LoveTheStranger. Consistent with this message are activities we have done or are already doing.
Co-sponsoring a Syrian Refugee family, activities with Habitat for Humanity, planning and participating in the annual Hunger Walk are all a part of what this campaign is about.
Anti-Semitism and acts of hate are a growing phenomenon, statistics bear that out. Our hope is that #LoveTheStranger will inspire people to care more, do more, and work to make Louisville live up to its ideals of compassion and tolerance.
Our world was diminished and collectively we share the impact of these recent acts of hate. The most meaningful tribute and respect we can give to the thirteen victims and their families is to combat hate groups and to make diversity and equality the core ideal of our community and our country.
Sara Klein Wagner is president and CEO of the (Jewish Community of Louisville. Matt Goldberg is director of the Jewish Community Relations Council.) Story origionally appeared in the Courier Journal.