Nine people were killed last night at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., when a 21-year-old man opened fire. The tragedy has shaken the country and reminded us that violence and hatred know no boundaries, and can reach us even within the walls of a house of worship.
For all congregants – from the youngest children in religious school, to young professionals engaged in religious life, to long-time stalwarts of the community – houses of worship are places of safety, comfort and inspiration. For the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church to have become last night a place of such horror tears at the heart of every person of faith and goodwill.
We reaffirm that religious intolerance, racial discrimination and hate-motivated violence have no place in our society, which aspires to be a haven for people of all faiths, races and ethnicities.
This attack also serves as yet another tragic reminder of the violence wrought by guns, which fall too easily into the hands of those who seek to cause grievous harm. Our Jewish tradition teaches: “He who takes one life it is as though he has destroyed the universe” (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5). Today we stand shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters in the African Methodist Episcopal community as we pray for those who were murdered and send our thoughts and strength to the families of the victims and those who were wounded.
This tragedy reminds us of the persistence of hate, discrimination, and gun violence and how much work remains to be done to create a world in which everyone is treated with respect and compassion.
About the Author; Claire Shimberg is a 2014-2015 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. Claire graduated in 2014 from the University of Pennsylvania, and is originally from Tampa, FL, where she is a member of Congregation Schaarai Zedek.