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189http://www.beth-israel.org/blog/2014/04/RabbiLyonsBlog-04_18_2014
Rabbi Lyon's Blog - 04_18_2014
04/17/2014 07:00 AM Posted by:

From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon
April 18, 2014

 

Overland Park, Kansas, couldn’t be a more unlikely target of anti-Semitic violence, but it became the center of our attention this past week. Just as Passover was beginning, a white supremacist and career anti-Semite took aim at a prominent Jewish target at the local JCC and Shalom Village assisted living and retirement home.

                Many commentators wrote that it was “ironic” that the shooter killed only non-Jews, but the irony is lost on me. I’m not obtuse, but I am unwilling to accept that there was anything ironic about the Jewish lives that were spared and the non-Jewish lives that were lost. Instead, I prefer to recognize something that a white supremacist and career anti-Semite could never see. Over all the years that have unfolded for Jews and Christians in this country where dialogue, relation-building, understanding and tolerance have transformed us as a community of religious faiths, the JCC in Overland Park, Kansas, became a center for all people. The day of the deadly shooting, young people and their parents were gathering for programs that were not specifically Jewish. The JCC, like a YMCA, became an integral part of that community. It was not just a place to which Jews went to find other Jews; it was a community center that was host to a variety of programs for all people.

                The accused gunman was mistaken when he identified the JCC as some sort of Jew-store where he could find his targets, starting in the parking lot. Horribly misguided by his hatred for Jews, he thought that a place labeled “Jewish” would be a place where he would find only Jews. As the world around him changed and faith traditions built bridges of understanding, his small world of hate and intolerance grew smaller and more concentrated. Ultimately, his criminal record hardened his heart and he fulfilled what he believed to be his duty to destroy his enemy. Of course, he failed. JCC’s and Jewish homes for the aged are places that welcome Jews, but they also welcome people of all faiths who value the programs and services of these institutions. The tragedy, therefore, is shared by all of us. Irony is not an excuse to refrain from mourning the murder of a dear grandfather and his grandson at the JCC in Overland Park, Kansas, or a woman at Shalom Village.

                To an anti-Semite, Passover is just another holiday to provoke or injure the Jewish community. An anti-Semite reeks of ignorance when, by contrast, the very holiday of Passover highlights the Exodus from bondage to freedom, and from ignorance to knowing. Now that’s irony; the very holiday on which we aim to overcome the obstacles to freedom and peace would become the time an anti-Semite would foul the air with ancient plagues of hatred and indifference.

                As a Jewish community, we must embrace the families who lost loved ones last week in Overland Park, Kansas, and assure them that their deaths were not in vain. They believed like we did that our community centers are not shooting ranges for madmen to find their intended victims. Let’s assure them and us that our community centers are modern testaments to our ability to overcome barriers of faith, gender, race and ethnicity; where we can combine our best efforts in theater, sports, and recreation to build enduring relationships founded on faith in each other.

                During this week of sacred occasions, let me wish my Jewish friends and synagogue members a Happy Passover, and my Christian friends a Happy Easter.

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