Sadness in Wisconsin

This week we mourned yet another outburst of hatred against people of faith as a lone gunmen opened fire on a gathering of Sikh worshipers at a Sikh Temple is Oak Creek, Wisconsin killing seven people and wounding many others. The perpetrator of this crime was apparently so ignorant of the world that he thought he was firing on Muslims at a mosque. Yet despite his ignorance about anything to do with real Muslims or Sikhs and probably much more, he knew enough about the world to be filled with hatred and to methodically plan to legally amass the armaments necessary to carry out this horrible crime.
This attack hit me particularly hard as it took place in my home State especially because it opened up long buried wounds of being subjected to the vicious ignorant hated I was subjected to as the usually lone Jewish child in school in my Northern Wisconsin town. People who knew nothing about me, families who had never actually ever spoken to a member of my family would not have anything to do with us because we were Jewish. There were clubs from which we were barred and groups we could not join. There were taunts at school and people actually searching to find my horns! I heard more than once that if I accepted Christianity I could be forgiven the sin of murdering Jesus. Even my best friend, who was going through an interesting time of her life, gave me condescending pamphlets entitled “Why I love the Jew.” (Today she claims credit for having driven me to become a rabbi).
In truth these experiences did help me become the person I am today. I learned to strive to be more tolerant of others and to always identify with the oppressed. I also learned how easily racist thoughts and words could escalate to hatred and violence. The Torah reminds us to always treat the stranger as a citizen and to help the oppressed because we know what it is like to suffer oppression. The attack on the peaceful gathering of Sikhs in Oak Creek shows us that we are still far from reaching this ideal of our Biblical ancestors.
May the families of those killed know that we mourn with them. May this horrible crime remind us to continue to work together to bring acceptance, education and love to all around us. Perhaps sometime soon we will truly live in a America which truly honors the diversity and beauty of the rainbow of people who make our nation great.