Fires set at two Chabad houses outside of Boston and a deadly shooting at a Chabad house near San Diego. A fire set at a mosque in New Haven. These are the most recent attacks on houses of worship in the United States in just the last month. I don’t need to list all of the other attacks on worshipers and on synagogues, churches, and mosques worldwide in the last several months. I don’t mention all of this to be an alarmist. Instead, I am heartened by the outpouring of support for all of these places of worship, with Muslims marching to support Jews, and Jews marching to support Muslims.
Our country was settled in part by those seeking the freedom to worship and follow their own consciences. We must continue to support that freedom and find ways to stem the tide of hatred directed at disrupting our way of life. As Senator Dianne Feinstein said after the Chabad of Poway shooting in California, “America stands for openness and tolerance, and those values suffer greatly from these terrible shootings.” Yet, we risk becoming numb to the violence and therefore losing the will to work hard to find solutions. In just the last couple of months, there were college and high school shootings in North Carolina and Colorado that were not even the lead story—but were “below the fold” on the front page of the paper I read—as deadly violence seems to become more of the norm in our everyday lives. Having just returned from the TBT trip led by Rabbi Offner in Vienna, Prague, Krakow, and Warsaw, we were witness to the sites and memories that told us how hate and violence can destroy the fabric of even the most developed societies of their day. I cannot in this short column provide advice on how we, in the U.S., can take steps to change course, but I can ask everyone to devote their attention to the problem so collectively we can find solutions and not accept the status quo as the new norm.