In the midst of the darkness, there’s light and hope

Last weekend’s horrific shootings in a Pittsburgh synagogue – the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history – was forefront in many people’s minds this past week. Thousands of people attended vigils and mourned the victims who were murdered while worshiping in their synagogue.

Although the horrific event in Pittsburgh last week was committed by one person, the occurrence of hateful acts didn’t end once he was in custody.  A 26-year-old man was arrested today for hateful graffiti inside a synagogue in Brooklyn, New York,  that said “Kill All Jews,” “Hitler” and other offensive language. He was also charged with a string of arson fires at a Jewish school and synagogues in Williamsburg.

Last week, a man walked into a grocery store and shot and killed a man and a woman (according to one witness, he had tried to enter a church before that, but the door was locked). Last week, mail bombs were sent to Democrat politicians and supporters, as well as CNN. Last night , a gunman walked into a yoga studio in Tallahassee, Florida and started shooting, killing two women before turning the gun on himself. As of now, no motive is known.

Sadly, there will likely be other acts of hatred in the news in the days, weeks, months and years to come.

There has always been people who are driven by hate. History is filled with stories of unimaginable horrors and periods of darkness. But fortunately, there’s also lots of light.

In the Greater Phoenix area alone, thousands attended the eight vigils held around the Valley throughout the week, in Scottsdale, Phoenix, Tempe and Sun City – sometimes with multiple vigils held on the same day in different areas of town. Guests included representatives from different religions, as well as government officials and politicians.  It was touching to see this show of community support.

This Shabbat, labeled with the hashtag #ShowupforShabbat, brought people who don’t normally attend Shabbat services to synagogue in a show of solidarity with Pittsburgh’s Jewish community.  At both services I attended, one on Friday night and one on Saturday morning, the victims of the Tree of Live shooting were remembered and there were many prayers of hope and peace and a call of action to bring light into the world by purposely doing acts of kindness and goodness. It may not stop the evil-doers from committing their evil acts, but together we can increase goodness in the world and make our world a better place.

On Thursday morning, I attended a breakfast meeting organized by the City of Chandler for representatives from Chandler organizations, faith-based institutions and businesses that are involved in For Our City-Chandler. Together, they work on projects to help the people in their community. It was very inspiring to see their dedication to improve the lives of others.

On Thursday evening, I attended the Anti-Defamation League’s Torch of Liberty Award Dinner. In addition to the award presentation to the honorees, Oren Segal, ADL’s director of the Center on Extremism, spoke about ADL’s work on fighting hate and extremism. Although his talk was a sad and frightening reminder about all the hatred out there boiling under the surface of what we’re typically exposed to, it was also eye-opening to learn about all the work goes into fighting hate online and educating the next generation.

One highlight of the evening is when the house lights were turned off and attendees turned on their mini ADL flashlights that were on the table, demonstrating the power that a little light from many people can illuminate the darkness.

As a quote from Oren Segal in the ADL program says, “This moment in time will not be remembered solely for hate, violence and extremism, but also for all the ways in which good people responded.”

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