There has been a recent spike in threats against Jewish synagogues and community centers and desecration of Jewish graveyards. There has also been a spike in threats against Muslim Mosques around the country.
These threats are not just somewhere else—they are nearby. Our neighbors at the Gordon Community Center has been the recipient of multiple bomb threats. So you will know, I have reached out on behalf of our entire church to my friends, Rabbi Mark Schiftan at The Temple and Rabbis Phillip and Laurie Rice at Congregation Micah to ask what we might do to stand in solidarity with them against these kinds of threats. They were most appreciative of the gesture and there may still be a way for us to be in partnership with our friends.
Threats of violence like this against religious institutions are so profoundly cowardly. Particularly at the Community Center where so many children are present.
In one of our Sunday School classes this past Sunday, we discussed the Parable of The Good Samaritan. In that conversation, we included time to discuss ways to end the cycle of violence that sometimes grips neighborhoods, cities, or entire nations.
The enmity between Jews and Arabs has been well-documented over the years. Their issues are deep and complex and do not yield to simplistic solutions. But sooner or later, someone will have to break the cycle of violence in order for peace to be attained.
Recently, I learned of a mosque that had been burned down in Florida. The leader of that mosque noticed something odd about donations. Many of the donations that came to the mosque were not in round numbers like $25 or $50 or $100 but were multiples of the number 18—like $18, $36, $72, etc. The leader of the mosque was perplexed until he clicked on the names of the donors to see Avi, Cohen, Goldstein, etc.
Jews donate in multiples of 18 as a practice known as “Chai”—Chai is a wish for long life.
In Missouri, when vandals damaged a Jewish cemetery, Muslim neighbors raised $125,000 to help pay for repairs.
In Texas, when a mosque was burned down by vandals, the local Jewish synagogue allowed the displaced Muslim faith community to worship in their synagogue.
Recently Jonathan Greenblatt, head of the Jewish Anti-Defamation League, received a standing ovation when he declared at a national conference that if U.S. Muslims were forced to register with the government, he would register as a Muslim, too.
These and many other similar stories are unfolding all around us as people and groups are trying to break the cycle of violence and hatred.
And if you are asking “What would Jesus do?”, it would be this.