Local Synagogue’s response to present day fear of antisemitism

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A monument representative of the Ten Commandments in the entrance of Temple Israel in Stockton.Photos by Ayanna Williams.
A monument representative of the Ten Commandments in the entrance of Temple Israel in Stockton. Photos by Ayanna Williams.

On Saturday Oct. 27, a man with a semi-automatic rifle and hatred in his heart, stormed into the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Penn. and murdered 11 elderly Jewish men and women during Shabbat services.

On that day, cries could be heard from every corner of the nation from every Jewish community as they asked themselves why. And every day I ask myself, why?

As a member of the Jewish community and someone who grew up going to temple for Sunday school, Hebrew school and every Shabbat service, it terrifies me to think a place where Jewish people go to be at peace, aren’t safe.

So why anti-semitism?

Why, for so long, have Jewish people been a target along with many other minority groups? Unfortunately there’s no simple answer.

This specific attack was motivated by not only hatred towards Jews, but immigrants as well.

American Jewish communities have been helping refugees make their way into the United States.

The man who committed this atrocity, Robert Bowers, who was also a right-wing extremist, hated what the Jewish community was doing and acted according to his own beliefs.

There’s absolutely no excuse for cold blooded murder.

There’s no one solution for hatred towards minorities, but according to Rabbi Jason Gwasdoff of Temple Israel in Stockton, there’s only one way to deal with acts of hatred and anti-semitism.

“I deeply believe that the best response to hate and acts of anti-semitism is for us to deepen our Jewish roots, to celebrate our Jewish lives and to live our Jewish values proudly,” said Gwasdoff.

In response to the violence committed against the Jewish community, it’s better to join together and strengthen our roots rather than feeling the need to run and hide from who we are.

On Nov. 2, Temple Israel in Stockton held a memorial service during Shabbat services for the 11 who were murdered.

The amount of support from the community was historically astounding.

Some of the speakers, along with Gwasdoff, included Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs and Congressman Jerry McNerney who brought words of kindness and remorse.

After seeing so much support that day, I believe there is truly no better way to deal with hatred, than to let the ones who hate know that we can’t be knocked down.

I think what every minority struggling to feel safe in their own communities should simply learn to embrace who they are, because hatred will not rest if we surrender to it.

“We can’t just build higher walls and stronger fences with more guards, we need to be building bridges,” said Gwasdoff. “We need to be strengthening our relationships within our communities both Jewish and non-Jewish, because this is not just about us; truthfully an attack on any minority group is an attack on our American values.”