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for these i cry

07/28/2022 09:07:15 AM


Rabbi Jeffrey Myers

I had the privilege on Tuesday of participating in a Congressional Briefing Honoring Oak Creek, Charleston and Pittsburgh Through Action organized by the Sikh Coalition. For those who do not recall, on August 5, 2012, a gunman entered a gurdwara (a place of worship and assembly for Sikhs) in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, and massacred six worshippers. Immediately after the massacre at Tree of Life, the Sikh community, both locally and nationally, reached out to offer any and all help that we needed. I have regularly been in contact with members of the Sikh community and we have jointly participated in national programming. When Sim J Singh Attariwala, the Policy Director for the Sikh Coalition, contacted me and invited me to participate in this Congressional Briefing, I immediately accepted. Amongst the many things that I have learned these nearly four years is that affected communities must work together to defeat H, for we are stronger when we are together.  Additional participants in this briefing were Harpreet Singh Saini, whose mother, Paramjit Kaur, was the only female victim, and Pastor Eric Manning, of Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC.

During the course of the ninety-minute briefing, we were joined by Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, Sen. Gary Peters (pre-recorded) of Michigan, and Rep. Grace Meng, of Queens, NY, all of whom recognize the growing menace of white supremacist groups’ behaviors and the necessity of our government to act boldly and decisively to curb this threat upon faith groups, people of color and the LGBTQ+ community. Many congressional staffers were also present. The major points that we focused upon might be summarized as:

  • The government needs to do more.
  • We as citizens must do more on the local level.
  • Education for all age groups is mandatory, as we do not know our neighbors.
  • Our elected leaders must be held up to the highest standards of deportment. When any one of them models bad behavior, it gives permission for all Americans to behave the identical way.
  • The Silent Majority must become a Vocal Majority, and rise up to repel all H-based groups, their words and their actions.

While many faith-based institutions across the United States have benefited from security funding from the federal government, many do not know that these funds are available. However, they are merely the beginning, enabling buildings to add in layers of security through hardware and software. They cannot fund the annual expense of engaging security personnel, and many institutions cannot afford the added costs. The debate between openness versus security is one that every house of worship must face, and make difficult decisions. What is abundantly clear is that the concept of sanctuary, a safe, holy place, no longer resonates with some people, as witnessed by the robbery that occurred this past Sunday in a black church in Brooklyn while the bishop was delivering his sermon. No house of worship is immune to this invasion, yet much has not changed in the nearly ten years since Oak Creek, as Charleston was in 2015, followed by Pittsburgh in 2018. Freedom to practice our religions in safety and security has been reduced to wishful thinking, and my writing this sentence saddens me. It should sadden you too, yet also spur you to action. The time for silence ended.

Wed, February 1 2023 10 Shevat 5783