From the President

PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE – December 2018

The November issue of the Chai Times was just being “put to bed” when news came of the shooting at the Tree of Life – Or L’Simcha Congregation in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on October 27.  I had just finished writing my column for that issue and my personal editor and proofreader Diane, to whom I am also married, had just approved it for publication.  As details emerged and the scope of the tragedy became known, I wondered if I should trash my just completed piece and write a column reflecting on the vicious act.  After consulting with Diane, I decided to let the October column stand, in part because I wasn’t sure what to say about the shooting.  It was too fresh.

The Tuesday after the shooting, October 30, there was a vigil at Burbank City Hall.  It was both comforting and inspiring to see several hundred of our friends and neighbors come out to stand in unity against hate and in support of love and community.

The day after the vigil, someone spray painted “(expletive) Jews” in red on the facade of Beth Jacob Synagogue in Irvine.

On November 7, a man was arrested accused of accosting at least three Orthodox Jewish women and pulling off their wigs in Valley Glen.

On November 23, a man yelled anti-Semitic from his car, made a U-turn, and tried to run down two congregants of Congregation Bais Yehuda in in the Hancock Park area.

Earlier this year the ADL released a report stating that the number of anti-Semitic incidents was nearly 60 percent higher in 2017 than 2016.  It was the largest single-year increase on record and the second highest number reported since ADL started tracking incident data in the 1970s.

How are we American Jews to react to these hate crimes directed at us?  Immediately, of course, we bury our dead, tend to our injured, care for our families, and cooperate with local authorities to assure prosecution of perpetrators.  We talk with our children and answer their questions appropriately (see RSPA President Cherie Rye’s article on page 6).  We clean the markings off our building.  We evaluate our security.  And we keep being Jews.

At Temple Beth Emet, we have installed video doorbells so we can keep the entry doors locked when unattended, we have had our staff, preschool and religious school teachers, and board members take active incident training from the Burbank Police Department, followed by a walk-through with the police lieutenant of our campus to elicit suggestions.  We will hold a presentation for our congregation early next year reviewing the key points of the training and our security planning.

And we will continue being Jews, and continue being part of our community.  Our Temple Hanukkiyah will be set up and lit each night of Hanukkah.  I will have my electric Hanukkiyah in my window facing the street as I always have.  We will have our Hanukkah Celebration at Temple on December 2 and participate in the Hanukkah in the Foothills event on December 10.  Throughout the year we will continue to practice our Judaism in our building and in our community and we will continue to educate our children in their heritage.

We do this to honor our martyrs though the centuries.  We do this because we refuse to be intimidated or frightened or repressed.  We do this for our children.  We do this because in spite of the troubling statistics, in spite of our grief for our fallen, in spite of the inconvenience of cleaning off vandalism, we know we have a lot more friends in our community than we have adversaries.  Our friends stand with us.  We stand together.

We know that we are not the only target of prejudice and hate.  Other racial, national, religious, and ethnic groups are also targets of this insanity, as are those who are LGBTQ+.  We stand with them too.  We stand together.

Wishing each and every one of you a very Happy Hanukkah and a wonderful 2019.

— IRA L. GOLDSTEIN, President