May 16, 2022
Yesterday, 10 precious human beings were murdered in a grocery store frequented by African Americans in Buffalo, NY—yet another act fueled by racist rhetoric and made possible by a legal system that allows easy access to weapons capable of mass violence. Our hearts go out to the families of the victims and to all people of color in our country who fear for their lives because of the color of their skin.
I am angry and heartsick over the loss of life and the anemic response in Washington. Racism and violence against marginalized groups have a long and sordid pedigree in American society, and we will not eradicate them tomorrow. Yet we must continue to speak out against hate speech, dog whistles from politicians, and online forums for pernicious lies that create the conditions in which mass killings occur. We must also continue to demand reform of the nation’s gun laws so that acts of mass violence are no longer just a credit card purchase away.
And let us be clear that our community is not immune to hatred and callous disregard for human life. Last week three nooses were discovered near Haven Middle School—a cruel act that sends a threatening message to Black people that they are unwelcome and unsafe in their own community. Such incidents can make us feel despondent, but we do not have the luxury of throwing up our hands or averting our gaze. The safety and security of people of color is at stake.
Moreover, we know all too well that when hatred is on the rise, it comes in many forms—targeting Asians, Jews, Muslims, members of the LGBTQ community and other minorities. Indeed, the shooter in Buffalo listed in his manifesto Jewish communities in New Jersey and included photographs of prominent Jews.
First and foremost, it is incumbent upon us to reach out with love and understanding to people of color at Beth Emet and in the broader community. We need to express our grief and our outrage and work together to build a society in which all people feel safe and valued, in which grocery shopping and attending middle school are not seen as dangerous activities for any of us.
On Monday at 6 p.m., the Evanston community will gather for a vigil in Fountain Square. Please make every effort to be there. Unfortunately, I will not be able to join in person because I am out of town, but I will be there with you in spirit and solidarity.
May the memories of those who were murdered in Buffalo be a blessing. May their families be enveloped in love and understanding. And may we never be lazy in the work of peace, justice, and equity.
Rabbi Andrea London