Commentary: One year after Poway attack, let us recommit ourselves to confronting anti-Semitism and hate – The San Diego Union-Tribune

Posted By on May 4, 2020

Monday marked one year since a gunman walked into Chabad of Poway during Sabbath services on the last day of Passover and opened fire on worshipers. Several people were seriously injured. Lori Gilbert Kaye, a beloved member of the San Diego community, lost her life to this senseless act of violence.

This anti-Semitic attack has had a significant impact on our local Jewish community, on Jewish communities throughout the country and on us personally. This attack also greatly affected the Poway community and the larger San Diego region.

This is our community, and we never imagined that an act of hate like this could happen where we call home.

Last week, the Anti-Defamation League released the results of a recent survey on Jewish Americans experiences with anti-Semitism. The survey reveals the anxiety and fear of a community that has faced deadly attacks on homes, community centers and synagogues.

Of the American Jews who took the survey, 63% feel their communities are less safe than they were a decade ago. More than 50% of those polled are worried about a violent attack or vandalism at a synagogue. It is devastating to think that this has already happened in San Diego.

There is no doubt that the anti-Semitic-fueled shooting at Chabad of Poway last year, like the 2018 Tree of Life synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh and the 2019 Hanukkah stabbing attack in Monsey, New York, has left a lasting mark on the American Jewish psyche, and on communities of faith. In San Diego, the attack in Poway followed an act of arson a month before at the Dar-ul-Arqam mosque in Escondido. Going into places of worship and faith in America should not be an act of courage.

From the asylum seekers abandoned within our city with no shelter to government shutdowns to the current challenges of the novel coronavirus pandemic, Jewish Family Service of San Diego continues to be a source of support when our community faces challenges and crises.

The Anti-Defamation League of San Diego County has further strengthened partnerships with Jewish agencies and synagogues and had deeper conversations with other communities impacted by rising tides of hate. We have reaffirmed our commitment to the security of our local Jewish community and continue to respond 24/7 to reports of anti-Semitism, even during stay-at-home orders.

As our county practices physical distancing, like cities across the country, we still see daily reminders that hate is growing. We know that when times are uncertain and troubled, people seek a group to scapegoat and a place to target their anger.

This rings true today, as our country grapples with this pandemic.

The Asian and Pacific Islander American community is ignorantly being targeted and blamed for the pandemic. In addition, hate groups are encouraging their members who are diagnosed with the coronavirus to intentionally spread it to religious and ethnic groups.

It is easy to turn inward when the future seems uncertain, with so many afraid of what tomorrow brings, but what we must remember, as we saw following the Chabad tragedy, that it is easier to heal, grow and learn if we turn outward and support each other.

What we must remember on this one-year anniversary is the love that poured in. The congregation of Chabad of Poway and the local Jewish community had thousands of allies locally and worldwide. Meaningful actions of support included vigils, blue-clad school children, flower-laden memorials for Lori Kaye, emails, calls, conversations about anti-Semitism, events on how to stop hate and new security policies.

Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, one of three people injured in the Poway attack, told the U.N. General Assembly in June that, If hate can leap across continents, so can love and light that will defeat it.

This is the love and support for one another we must remember and carry forward.

In the current times, we are reminded even more that as individuals and as a community our health and well-being are inextricably connected. Writer and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel said, Just as despair can come to one only from other human beings, hope, too, can be given to one only by other human beings.

We must not accept as normal the fear that so many of us feel today. To honor the memory of Lori Kaye and all victims of hate across the world, we must use this moment to recommit ourselves to confronting anti-Semitism and hate of all kinds head-on.

Hopkins is the CEO of Jewish Family Service of San Diego and Gillies is the regional director of the Anti-Defamation League of San Diego County.

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Commentary: One year after Poway attack, let us recommit ourselves to confronting anti-Semitism and hate - The San Diego Union-Tribune

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