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.

State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson was there to represent our district. But she also noted that she was there as a member of the Congregation. And especially “as a Jew”.

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.

Pastor Denise Leichter is President of Greater Santa Barbara Clergy Association and she echoed that message of inclusiveness.

Rabbi Daniel Brenner delivered a memorial service for those who were murdered at the Tree of Life temple.

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.

Then Rabbi Stephen Cohen delivered the keynote address of the gathering.

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

The congregation was filled with people embracing as he sang.



Written by sbrobert

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  1. I’m becoming raw with each new murderous rampage. The worst for me was Sandy Hook Elementary School, 28 killed in 2012. Columbine High School was early days and awful in 1999, 15 dead. Las Vegas shooting last year, 59 head. Orlando nightclub, 33 dead. San Ysidro McDonald’s, 22 dead. San Bernardino terrorist attack in 2015, 16 dead. On and on – Virginia Tech, Sutherland Springs Church, Luby’s, University of Texas (way back in 1966), Edmond Post Office, Binghamton, Fort Hood, Camden, Wilkes-Barre, Washington Navy Yard, Easter Sunday massacre in 1975, Geneva County, GMAC, Atlanta, Red Lake, Umpqua Community College, Santa Fe High School, Aurora-movie theater in 2012, 12 dead. There are LOTS more (including local shootings UCSB/Isla Vista, Post Office Goleta), and unfortunately, the Pittsburgh Synagogue is now on this list -11 killed. So sad. Disheartening.

  2. You are so right….everyone is sick of these rampages. Also, do not lose sight that there were over 70000 overdose desths in the US in 2017, and this year we are on track to exceed that number. One of my friends from overseas once said, “When you Yanks are not killing each other, you are killing yourselves.”

  3. The sad fact is that this mass shooting is already out of the news cycle. The major networks and news outlets have “used up” their allotted time to this story, and don’t care at all….pure business (no surprise). So sad how low the American press can stoop.

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