Jewish leaders speak up at San Bernardino vigil

December 8, 2015

Congregation Emanu El Rabbi Emeritus Hillel Cohn used the language of Chanukah to describe his hopes for the city of San Bernardino, which is reeling from a mass shooting that occurred last week at the San Bernardino-based Inland Regional Center.

“The miracle will be we will not succumb to the fear and hysteria but we will go on and make this a model community, really… I was chairperson of this city’s bicentennial, back in 2010; San Bernardino got it’s name in 1810; I was chair of the citywide bicentennial [and] our tagline was a ‘rich history and a bright future.’ We have a rich history – nothing detracts from that, and I still believe we have a bright future.

“I’m not living in some naïve world; it’s not a future that doesn’t have challenges, but we’re going to make it,” he said. “We’re going to rise from the ashes.”

Cohn, whose synagogue is located in Redlands, a city neighboring San Bernardino, was among those honoring the victims of last week's shooting during an interfaith vigil on Monday night held at Our Lady of the Rosary Cathedral in San Bernardino.

Congregation Emanu El Rabbi Jay Sherwood and Cohn were among the speakers at the event, which included a candle lighting of 15 candles — 14 for the 14 who died in the shooting and a fifteenth candle to honor the 21 who were wounded — and featured Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders, according to Sherwood.

During the gathering, Sherwood delivered a five-minute sermon about the importance of not succumbing to xenophobia as a result of what took place last week, and Cohn delivered a prayer for elected officials. 

“As I said last night, when we hear an accent different than ours, when we see a skin color different than ours, when we see a person dressed in a different style than ours, and we allow it to arouse our suspicions about that, we let the terrorists win. When we stand together instead of divided and speak words of peace and words of welcome and words of love in this way we will overcome the tragedy, and we will overcome the violence,” Sherwood said, adding that his sermon drew on the text from the book of Isaiah.

Additional attendees included labor union leaders representing employees at the Inland Regional Center, Sherwood said.

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