Why am I so upset about the events in Charlottesville? Why does this hit me with such a visceral fear? I can only answer with a date that is forever burned in my memory, June, 18, 1999.
As our members know, on June 18, 1999 two white supremacist, racist, radical Christian extremist brothers - Benjamin and Tyler Williams - began a terror spree that began with the burning of Congregation B'nai Israel, Congregation Beth Shalom, and Kenesset Israel Torah Center, continued two weeks later with the firebombing of a health clinic that provided abortions, and ended with the murder in the middle of the night of Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder as they lay asleep in their bed.
The Williams brothers reign of terror awakened me to the very real and present danger of radical Christian extremism in the United States as a terrorist movement in our country. That night forever changed the way I look at my fellow Americans, and my ability to sleep soundly at night.
Over the few years I've watched as white nationalist groups have become emboldenedintheirpublicactsofhateandterror. TheWilliamsbrothersinflicted their terror in the middle of the night. But more and more of their compatriots have felt not only comfortable acting in the bright light of day, but they feel they have the mandate and authority to do so.
Many members of the Sacramento Jewish community, including me, had to have 24 hour police security for months after the 1999 attacks. And even though that was 18 years ago, that summer haunts me still. Periodically, I see my name or my photo on the websites of white supremacists, radical Christian extremists, or the Alt-Right, and I get that same sick feeling in my stomach that I lived with after the synagogue
arsons. It's the same feeling I've had since I turned on the news yesterday morning and watched the horrific events in Charlottesville.
Tonight, I'm going to the west steps of the State Capitol at 7:30 pm to "Stand in Solidarity with Charlottesville" - and offer a prayer for healing and pray for our country to live up to its highest ideals.
I'm doing this because to be silent the face of hate is to be complicit with it. As Elie Wiesel said: "We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented."
The event will begin at City Hall at 7:30, with a march to the Capitol for the vigil. For those who would like to carpool to the event at the Capitol, please meet in the B'nai Israel parking lot between 6:30-6:45. This is not an organized carpool, just an opportunity for those who would like to go together with other members of our synagogue to go together.
Rabbi Mona Alfi
Attached are two articles that detail the anti-Semitic nature of the events in Charlottesville:
"Hate in Charlottesville: The day the Nazi called me Shlomo"
"What a Jewish journalist saw in Charlottesville"