August 19, 2012

In Memoriam of the Sikh Temple Shooting Victims

Posted in Interfaith at 5:51 am by chavalah

Early this month, a white supremacist named Wade Michael Page entered a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., and shot and killed six strangers before taking his own life in a shootout with police. Fuller details of the tragedy are here.

Later the same day, a former white supremacist named Arno Michaelis who runs the online magazine Life after Hate, posted this raw and candid response.

Certainly as a Jew, I feel kinship with the Sikh community for being targeted by white supremacists due to reasons of paranoia and hatred. It’s so easy to stay silent when something like this happens. I remember a few years ago sitting in a bus terminal at the airport while an elderly, white man eagerly tried to push literature on the guy sitting next to me about how Jews are taking over the world. In the face of such horrific violence as was witnessed this month, more people are speaking up. It’s wrong to target other groups just because they’re different from you. It’s wrong to inflict violence and despair.

But Michaelis takes things one step forward from condemnation. Not only is he a person who was able to evolve past this hateful lifestyle, but he implored his listeners to take responsibility. To work on making the world a better place rather than blaming others for its problems. To choose love and compassion over hatred and violence. It’s a message, on the whole, that is very pertinent to Jews right now as we prepare for the High Holidays, our annual assessment for where we, as individuals, stand in the world.

I started the day of August 5 feeling threatened and depressed about the state of American society where white supremacists still exist. I ended it feeling awed and hopeful that someone could make a complete turnaround and start preaching peace. It makes me imagine what I might be able to accomplish in the coming year. It gives me hope for my standing on the Day of Atonement; that even with my worst flaws, I can find a way to better myself.

It was Anne Frank, my personal hero, who taught me that even out of the worst situations there can be hope. I pray, that with our love and support, the Sikh community will find out the same.

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