I posted an article on my Facebook page about the murders in the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston with the comment: “When will we ever learn?” Soon after I posted an article about the arson at the Church of the Multiplication in Tabgha with the comment: “When we are taught to be "a light to the nations" this is NOT the light God was talking about.” (https://www.facebook.com/rabbiharryrosenfeld)
Over the past 2 days I continued to reflect on the connections between the two horrific crimes and the national and international reactions to them. Briefly, here are my thoughts:
1) At their core, there is no difference between the crimes. They are crimes of pure unadulterated hate. There may also be elements of wanting to instill fear beyond the crime itself. If so, then there is an aspect of terrorism present.
2) News reports and commentators talk about the "loss of life" in Charleston. Lives were not lost or misplaced. Using the word lost implies the dead had something to do with their own deaths. People were murdered. Seen by their murderer as less than human, in his mind he slaughtered them as if they were livestock.
3) Arson does not seem like a strong enough word to describe the desecration of the Church of the Multiplication. Until the perpetrators are caught we will not know if their prime motivation was to instill fear in the Israeli Christian community (thus terrorism) or if it was an act of hatred or both. Regardless, arson is a descriptive euphemism for this horrific act of destruction.
4) It is long past time for America and Israel to deal with the scourges of hatred and bigotry and, in America, the scourge of gun violence, all of which threaten to erode the very fabric of these two countries we love.
5) When caught and convicted, in addition to being punished to the full extent of Israeli law, those that attempted to destroy the Church of the Multiplication and those whose teachings they follow should be put in Cherem – excommunicated from the Jewish community. Their teachings and their acts are antithetical to Judaism and if we, as a Jewish community, do not use every means available to us to condemn them and exclude them from the Jewish community, the shamefulness of their act is also born by us.
6) If Dylann Storm Roof murdered Tywanda Sanders, Susie Jackson, South Carolina State Senator the Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Ethel Lee Lance, Myra Thompson, Rev. Daniel Lee Simmons Sr., (yes, we must uphold our principles including innocent until proven guilty in a court of law) he and his teachers should be excommunicated from their churches in addition to being sentenced to the full extent of the law.
The time has come to stop “pussyfooting around” with language and call murder – murder, racism – racism, hate – hate and evil – evil. The time has come for us to expel from our Jewish community those whose acts of hatred and enmity toward others are antithetical to our Jewish teaching of the sacredness of human life. The time has come for us to ask other faith traditions to do the same.
I believe in repentance and if, after serving their sentences, the perpetrators of these crimes truly repent, we would welcome them back with open arms but until that day, they are not us.