Congregation B'nai B'rith Night of Solidarity
By Robert Bernstein
Congregation B'nai B'rith hosted a Night of Solidarity to bring the community together in the wake of a series of hate crimes around the country. Notably, the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh. But other hate crimes as well.
Here are my photos, videos and event program.
The most notable aspect of the event was the sheer turnout of people from our community!
We were coming there from the Wake Center about two miles away. As soon as we were on Cathedral Oaks Road we were in a traffic jam of people streaming to the Temple!
We managed to find a spot on the floor to sit, but those who came after us had to listen from the lobby or beyond! It was heartwarming to see the outpouring of support in our community!
We were welcomed in by Cantor (singer) Mark Childs performing "Comfort Me" in Hebrew and in English
Congregation B'nai B'rith President Steven Amerikaner talked of the local connections that Congregation members had to the Tree of Life victims and survivors. He then introduced Congressman Salud Carbajal who delivered a message of inclusion and solidarity.
Senator Jackson spoke of a neighbor hurling an anti-Semitic insult at her as she went about her business in her front yard as a teen in Newton, Massachusetts. She said that verbal assault still rings in her ears to this day.
I might note that in 1965 we were living in rural New England. My father took a job at the University of Maryland and we moved to the city of New Carrollton near the campus. My brother and I were the new kids in the school and we seemed to be welcomed in. My brother was elected class president. But then people started asking him about our name "Bernstein". "Are you Jews?" He was beaten up when he said we were. We were forced to move away.
Fortunately, we found refuge in the city of Silver Spring on the DC border which was a more diverse and inclusive community.
I am grateful for my positive memories growing up in Silver Spring with people of all races, religions, ethnicities, and colors. But it is hard to forget what it felt like to be forced to move for pure hatred only for who we were by birth.
Hannah-Beth spoke of the Tree of Life members welcoming immigrants. Which seemed to be a special reason their temple was a target for violence. Senator Jackson reminded us that almost all of us were immigrants. And that many early immigrants to America were not very nice to the actual Natives.
She went on to note the diversity of the crowd in solidarity for the evening. And she thanked those from other religions who were in attendance. And those from no faith at all. She urged us to turn hate into love. Into kindness, more importantly.
Then there was a memorial candle lighting with a number of representatives of our community. Including Santa Barbara Mayor Cathy Murillo, Goleta Mayor Paula Perotte, Santa Barbara Police Chief Lori Luhnow, Unitarian Minister Julia Hamilton and County Supervisor Janet Wolf.
He bravely mentioned Donald Trump and his language that incites hatred, division, and violence. Some in the audience applauded his courage in making this statement. For many, the hate speech of Donald Trump was the elephant in the room that was being ignored.
But Rabbi Cohen quickly shut that down with a wave and an admonishment that this was not his point. He went on to talk of a long history of hate and division before Trump was elected. Including in the year before he was elected. He urged us to come together in love and community to move forward to a better future.
The event closed with a final song by Cantor Mark Childs