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Rabbi: Hate-filled violence threatens us all

By Rabbi Mark Levin
updated 1:20 PM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Frazier Glenn Cross, a 73-year-old Missouri man with a long history of spouting anti-Semitic rhetoric, is seen in a police car Sunday, April 13. He is suspected of fatally shooting three people: a boy and his grandfather outside a Jewish community center in Overland Park, Kansas, and a woman at a nearby assisted-living facility. Frazier Glenn Cross, a 73-year-old Missouri man with a long history of spouting anti-Semitic rhetoric, is seen in a police car Sunday, April 13. He is suspected of fatally shooting three people: a boy and his grandfather outside a Jewish community center in Overland Park, Kansas, and a woman at a nearby assisted-living facility.
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Mark Levin: Shootings point to culture of hate-filled violence tolerated in U.S.
  • He says incident threatens Jews but also shows bolstering support of larger community
  • He says wanton hate in U.S. affects many; at least two of those targeted were not Jews
  • Levin: Society is guilty; it should address weapons, mental health and culture of violence

Editor's note: Mark H. Levin is the pulpit rabbi at Congregation Beth Torah in Overland Park, Kansas. He has lived in the greater Kansas City area since 1976. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- As Jews prepare for Passover, our community has been hauled into the violence that plagues our nation. At this moment, we don't know for certain whether the killings Sunday at two Jewish Centers in Overland Park, Kansas, were aimed exclusively at Jews, but it certainly feels that way.

In a larger sense, we have been victimized by the random, hate-filled violence that steals lives and futures in this country daily.

Mark Levin
Mark Levin

Perhaps it is no coincidence that this hateful attack occurs at Passover. It surely threatens Jews' sense of security and multiplies the fear that we are persecuted. I wish, however, that you could know of the loving calls I am receiving from friends and clergy all over the wider metropolitan area and indeed around the world. Our neighbors: Jews, Christians and Muslims are outraged that senseless murder would be aimed at our community.

We live among friends, and that is very different from Pharaoh's Egypt, Nazi Germany or any other place in which Jews have suffered persecution. We are being singled out, but in a larger sense we are not, because this is no longer a unique act of terror. Rather, the scourge of violence in America threatens us all. Those who hate as a way of life must be rooted out, isolated and punished.

As Jews, we are no strangers to violence or wanton hatred. Many of us grew up with the fear of persecution. But we are not alone, either in our suffering or in our fears. Our newspapers report daily murderous acts against one group or another: blacks, gays, children, Muslims, minorities of all sorts. Many of the perpetrators are not sane; many of the victims are unsuspecting. The more proximate we are to the event, as the Jews of Overland Park were on Sunday, the more vulnerable and violated we feel.

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But look at the reality. At least two of those killed were not the apparent intended targets: Jewish people. They attended a nearby Methodist church. They were, tragically, in the line of fire because they had come to the Jewish Center to be part of an event, further evidence that this nation does not single us out as a hated minority but accepts us as beloved members of society and friends.

Rather, our fear and our concern should be directed at a society that will not spend the resources to provide care for the mentally ill, will not limit the means by which violence is perpetrated and does not share common social purpose sufficient to protect us all from these random killings. For that, we are all guilty.

We need to search our souls to ask why we, as a society, allow these daily murders to continue. On Sunday, Jews were apparently singled out. Tomorrow, it could well be another group, and Overland Park will recede in memory. But the truth is that we are all bound by our human experience and the tragic violence that is overwhelming the United States, ending lives and destroying families.

Our prayers are with the victims and their families. They must be our main concern, as well as those who feel threatened by random violence. Sunday demonstrated that any of us could be singled out, and therefore we see we are one people that must be united in our conviction that we will not tolerate the hatred that murders innocent people and tears at the body of our nation.

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