"Whenever someone hears of a tragic shooting, they think, 'how terrible.' This time however, I didn't just think it; it was a gut-wrenching feeling that took over my body."
This week we hear from FZY boger Jono Mizrahi, who has written a piece reflecting on yet another antisemitic shooting in the US. Jono describes his family's personal connection to Poway synagogue with moving eloquence; I thank him greatly for providing an emotional insight into the suffering of their community.
On Saturday, 11:20 am local time, a gunman stormed Poway synagogue during the Rabbi's sermon in an antisemitic attack. One person died, with three people wounded including Rabbi Goldstein, the Rabbi who married both of my parents in 1992. The others injured included Almog Peretz, a 34-year-old Israeli visiting for the holidays as well as his 8-year-old niece, Nora Dayan. Lori Gilbert Kaye, at 61 years old was murdered while fulfilling mitzvot. This whole attack took place because they were Jewish, no other reason.
Saturday’s attack on Poway Synagogue isn't only painful because I am Jewish or because my family is American. This attack has a real personal connection to my family and me. As mentioned previously, both my parents were married by Rabbi Goldstein in 1992. However, this connection to Poway lies deeper in my family roots. My grandparents, Mel and Mickey Falb, born to immigrant parents from Russia and Poland were founding members of Poway over 30 years ago. I still remember stories being retold by my late grandpa of the friendly and welcoming nature of Rabbi Goldstein to everyone, no matter what level of observance or background. My Saba Mel was a vital member of the community, from being a shul kibitzer to singing Kol Nidre on Yom Kippur. When I was 15, I had the pleasure of visiting the synagogue and taking part in services. My Saba used to tell me that before the construction of the beautiful building where Chabad Poway now stands, daily minyan would be in a storefront in the back of a mall; “it was a wonderful community even then.”
Beyond personal grief, how can something like this never happen again? I found true inspiration in the final words of Rabbi Goldstein’s sermon yesterday where he said, “we are strong. We are United. They can’t break us.” It is fundamental that as a Jewish community we do not let the antisemitic tropes and attacks develop in the same way they did 70 years ago. We cannot be silenced. Despite this, we need as a nation to stand side by side, no matter what faith or background. As Rabbi Goldstein said following the recent mosque attack in New Zealand, “every human being is created in the image of G-d.” Whether it be an attack on a school, a hospital or a place of worship, it is essential that as humans we unite to defeat the terrorism that stains our planet. As a 19-year-old myself, I find it hard to comprehend how a fellow 19-year-old could commit this heinous crime. How did this 19-year old learn that Jews deserve to be murdered? How could this 19-year-old have such conviction to terrorize a community on such a holy day? These questions are issues that still beg resolution.
"My Saba used to tell me that before the construction of the beautiful building where Chabad Poway now stands, daily minyan would be in a storefront in the back of a mall."
Antisemitism exists today both intentionally and unintentionally. I, myself, have experienced this multiple times. From playing a football match when I was 10 with intentional derogatory remarks, at sporting events with the continuous use of accepted defamatory terms, through to just last week, unintentionally being on the receiving end of an anti-Semitic trope. These examples highlight the need for education from childhood through to today's adults as a resolution.
As a proud Zionist Jew, I support the notion that every group has a right to freedom and safety. This requires unity, education and interminable communication. We, as citizens of the world along with diplomats and government officials, must stand together and pursue the end of all hatred that exists today. People must go beyond ‘saying’ how terrible something is and must act upon these emotions to make sure hatred like this doesn't transpire ever again.