Washington, D.C. | www.mpac.org | January 23, 2022 — Multi faith leaders gathered on Friday to deliver a joint press conference following the hostage crisis at Beth Israel Temple in Colleyville, TX. Joining together in solidarity, faith leaders condemned the attack, warned against the perils of anti-Semitism, and reiterated the importance of maintaining strong bridges between faith communities, especially in times of increasing polarization. The faith leaders expressed concern since the hostage crisis reignited the tendency to defame a whole community for the acts of a single individual, thus making it crucial to counter hate and violence with messages of peace and solidarity.
During the joint press conference, faith leaders reiterated the common idea that the solidarity of Muslim, Jewish, Christian, and other faith communities, is fundamental in preventing hate-based violence. Rabbi Jonathan Aaron and Rabbi Sarah Bassin from Temple Emanuel, Beverly Hills, who hosted the press conference on Friday, highlighted the importance of condemning the attack, while warning against the “negative sentiments about Muslims which have started to creep into social media and mainstream conversations,” thus calling on all of us to “resist the impulse to stigmatize an entire faith community.” Salam Al-Marayati, speaking from Temple Emanuel which he calls “my sacred space,” reminded the audience that “it is our responsibility as Muslims, especially American Muslims, to speak out against anti-Semitism,” and shared how “justice is not determined by making sure that I have rights. Justice is determined by making sure that the ‘other’ has rights, however we define the ‘other’. True religion is when we see that there is no other.” Rabbi Sharon Brous from IKAR, lamented the initial reluctance of authorities to label the attack as an act of anti-Semitism, an ideology that, she explains, is a “poison in our system,” calling it “the same ideology that stands at the heart of white nationalism.” To eradicate it, she continued, we need to be “honest about what we are and where the problems are,” while acknowledging the risks associated with doing so when the act is perpetrated by a member of another discriminated against group. To prevent the Islamophobic backlash that might result, Rabbi Sharon Brous stated that “we are not going to allow the actions of a single individual to define the relationship with the collective,” adding that we must “dream together of a world in all of our beautiful diversity and differences to live in.”
Among the speakers there was also the recently elected President and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Rabbi Noah Farkas who quoted Martin Luther King Jr., inviting everyone to establish “a nation of love and not hate” because “as MLK said, “hate is too much of a burden to bear, it corrodes our souls and disintegrates ourselves.” Similarly, Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky of Bnai David-Judea Congregation, quoted the Torah, calling for the community to “stand as one person with one heart” because “when we stand together, when faith communities stand together, when human communities stand together and feel together as with one heart, then we can hear the voice of God.”
“We do not want the narrative of hate to override our faith. We are all in the pursuit of health, security, and protection,” stated Umar Hakim, Chairman of MPAC’s African American Muslim Insight Council and President of Intellect Love and Mercy (ILM) , sharing a strong message of solidarity from the podium. He also called the attacks in Texas a “violation of our human security,” reiterating how for Muslims “saving one life is like saving all of humanity.”
Fr. Alexei Smith, Archdiocese of Los Angeles, showed unwavering support from the Catholic community, recalling how the nearby Catholic church in Colleyville, TX, offered refuge to the families of the hostages during the crisis, “providing the wonderful example of shared humanity for all of us” and adding that he couldn't “think of any better response than to publicly reject all forms of hatred, Islamophobia among them.” Pastor William Smart, President and CEO of Southern Christian Leadership Conference passionately shared that “We need to embark on that holistic, beloved community that Dr. King long talked about. We need to overcome the war, to overcome white supremacy, we need to overcome capitalism, we need to, as a religious community, come together.”
All interfaith leaders pointed to the importance of choosing love over hate, looking out not only for members of one’s community, but first and foremost for others, welcoming “the stranger,” to build strong bonds of solidarity that alone can prevent attacks like Colleyville from happening again. United in a common prayer of solidarity with the Jewish community, all interfaith leaders present made an active commitment to eradicate hate and hate-based violence from their communities and from the nation as a whole.
If you missed the press conference, watch the full recording here.