By Tracy Simmons
People of all faiths swarmed into Temple Beth Shalom Friday night to show the Jewish community that they stand with them in staring down the evils of anti-semitism.
On Oct. 3, during a Yom Kippur service, it was noticed that a swastika was painted on a courtyard wall at the synagogue. Learning the news, many of Spokane’s faith communities reached out to Temple Beth Shalom expressing their concern and desire to support the congregation. In response the synagogue invited the Spokane community to its Shabbat service during Sukkot, titling the evening “Standing Together Against Hate.”
During Sukkot, sukkah are built which are temporary outdoor huts meant to remind Jews of when the Israelites relied on temporary shelters — and were exposed to the harsh elements — when wandering through the dessert.
Rabbi Tamar Malino explained that Sukkot is also a time for the Jewish community to step outside its silos and connect with others.
“This week the comfort of our home was was shattered by an act of anti-semitism,” she said. “Anti-semitism comes in many forms. It comes as s subtle stereotypes about Jews and money, or how Jews control the media or government, or as vitriolic anti-Israeli sentiment, or as overt acts of hatred and intimidation, such as this swastika put on our building. And, of course, as acts of violence directed at the Jewish community.”
She said ignoring these things, or minimizing their impacts, does no good.
“Speaking out against anti-semitism and all other forms of prejudice, racial and ethnic hatred, as well as teaching our children to do so, is our only tool to preserve our humanity,” Malino said.
At the service many faith leaders spoke, including the Rev. Patrick Hartin, of the Catholic Diocese of Spokane, who read a letter from Bishop Blase Cupich.
“No child is born a bigot. They’re taught to be so,” Cupich wrote. “That’s why we Christians need to clearly denounce such actions and sentiments and educate our children to reject anti-semitism.”
He wrote, to Malino, that Catholics across Eastern Washington stand with her community in this time and will be praying for Spokane’s Jewish community during Mass.
The Rev. Scott Starbuck, of Manito Presbyterian Church, spoke on behalf of his congregation as well as on behalf of the Presbytery of the Inland Northwest. He said it took until 1987 for the Presbyterian Church USA to release a statement promising to “never again participate in, contribute to or allow the persecution or degradation of the Jews.”
He said he and his congregation don’t stand with Temple Beth Shalom as “pure people,” but as people who have had hateful hearts and the ability to fear the stranger.
“I think one of the best ways we can stand together against such hateful, terrible, awful acts is to work together ceaselessly for the causes of justice and peace and I look forward to ways we can do that together in the future,” Starbuck said.
Skyler Oberst, ambassador to the Council for a Parliament of The World’s Religions, said the key to overcoming anti-semitism and hate, is radical love.
“Love cannot exist if we allow ourselves to feel dejected and insular. It takes courage and vulnerability to love. And in that vulnerability, we truly enter into partnership with one another. I can only be fully human if those around me can as well,” he said.
The Rev. Joe Niemiec Jr., president of Spokane Interfaith Council and co-pastor of the Center for Spiritual Living, was the final speaker and echoed the remarks of those he shared the pulpit with, adding that every faith group has the right to worship in a safe environment. He vowed to do his part in educating and reminding the greater Spokane community that the local Jewish community has a right to celebrate their traditions peacefully.
Tracy Simmons is an award-winning journalist specializing in religion reporting and digital entrepreneurship. In her approximate 20 years on the religion beat, Simmons has tucked a notepad in her pocket and found some of her favorite stories aboard cargo ships in New Jersey, on a police chase in Albuquerque, in dusty Texas church bell towers, on the streets of New York and in tent cities in Haiti. Simmons has worked as a multimedia journalist for newspapers across New Mexico, Texas, Connecticut and Washington. She is the executive director of SpokaneFāVS.com, a digital journalism start-up covering religion news and commentary in Spokane, Washington. She also writes for The Spokesman-Review and national publications. She is a Scholarly Assistant Professor of Journalism at Washington State University.
It was truly inspiring to see so many people of different faiths and backgrounds coming together to support the Jewish community in Spokane and show solidarity against hate and bigotry. Glad to be a part of it!
I saw Christians, Mormons, Atheists, Agnostics, Buddhists and nones!
The service brought me to tears. I was touched by the show of support for our community and want to thank all who attended.