August 19, 2019

Charleston Church Shooting is a Crime Against all of America

My thoughts and prayers are with the victims' families and community. My prayers are especially with the African American community, and their spiritual leaders and communities; they work hard to bring Godliness into the world. These shining examples of selflessness and Godliness were killed, angels among us that bring light to the world, were slain. Leaders who brought goodness and happiness and comfort to so many have been senselessly murdered. God this is not right.

As the leader of a congregation here in LA, I understand this is about the most devastating thing that could ever happen. Not only loosing your religious leaders in a senseless vicious attack – but that crime being committed in the place you gather to worship and study.

As Jews we have always known that those who seek to destroy us, aim for our synagogues. Where we congregate and pray and commune with God — that is the place where evildoers go to do evil. Synagogues around the world have been targets of these kinds of massacres and we, the Jewish community, have to place guards at many of our houses of worship because of these threats. I don't wish this upon anyone else, a sense that someone might come and attack you while in prayer simply because of whom you are and how you look and how you pray and what kind of religious beliefs you hold dear.

The pathological nature of man who did this comes from a place of real evil. It is hard to imagine that a human is capable of such an act – and yet we see this kind of evil perpetrated here in our own country all too often. 

This heinous hate-crime committed in a place of worship has the power to provoke our nation to really do something about gun violence and racism. Charleston can become that tipping-point moment with a confluence of public outcry and political will are combined to really get something accomplished. It can become the time when Americans stand up and say enough is enough. No more easy access to guns. No more public sanctioned racist flags flying. No more tolerance for those fomenting and leading others to racism. No more tolerance of the NRA providing the ammunition and guns to destroy our society.

When our country was attacked from terror from abroad, we banded together. But when our country is attacked from within?

The massacre at the Charleston church is a crime against all of America and all Americans.

I pray to God that we are provoked into action – now!


Rabbi Yonah Bookstein is Co-Founder of Pico Shul, a new spiritual community in Los Angeles.