The tender embrace after a synagogue shooting

Beneath the good deeds after the tragedy in Poway, California, lies a desire to restore a community’s harmony – and to curb hate-filled violence.

AP
People of various faiths join in a vigil for the Chabad of Poway synagogue shooting victims at the Rancho Bernardo Community Presbyterian Church in San Diego, Calif., April 27.

Last Saturday, just after a lone gunman killed one and injured two at a synagogue in Poway, California, any number of people rushed to repair the rupture of harmony in the community. Two Muslims and a Sikh quickly went to the scene to offer aid. A nearby Orthodox church opened its door to the Jewish victims. Another church organized a candlelight interfaith vigil. Someone set up a GoFundMe page to collect donations. Counselors were sent to the homes of the Chabad of Poway victims.

Such tales of good deeds may never be fully tallied but even these few make a point often reinforced after a terrorist attack. In tragedy, people act in ways to recover the absolute values that bind people together despite differences in faith, politics, race, or anything else that creates today’s Towers of Babel.

In their sorrow, people in Poway told of courageous heroes who sacrificed themselves, as Lori Gilbert-Kaye did in shielding Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein from a bullet at the Passover service.

In their fears, people who were once strangers expressed love through shared prayers, hugs, or simply promises to improve security for houses of worship. “We will walk through this tragedy with our arms around each other,” said Poway Mayor Steve Vaus.

The Poway shooting may not go down in history as a major terrorist attack. Yet its stories of recovery are memorable reminders of how people can curb hate-fueled violence by reaching for ideals such as the sanctity of life, the equality of all, and the infinite worth of each individual. The people of Poway are not retreating from their differences. Yet they have now converged by their acts of comfort and a new reliance on ideals that inspire. Their community harmony was not so much restored as they were restored to the norms of harmony.

“We are all partners in creation,” Rabbi Goldstein said after the shooting. The good deeds in Poway provided a rescue from tragedy. They were also a tender embrace of the goodness behind the deeds.

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