When Hatred Strikes a Community

 

Today at Bonita High School, the Chula Vista community leaders came out to address the problem of anti-Semitic and anti-LGBT graffiti that was written across the High School building over the Halloween holiday this past week.

Although Councilmember Steven Padilla pointed out that graffiti, in general, is not an unusual incident when it comes to Halloween, this year, the Chula Vista community must stand together in complete solidarity and condemn this kind of hateful activity. Our community must declare that hatred and intolerance cannot be tolerated.

Many other representatives and community leaders were present. The names included: San Diego County Supervisor Nora Vargas;  Sweetwater Union High School Board President Nicholas Segura; Mayor Salas, Padilla Sweetwater Union High School Board Trustee Dr. Adrian Arancibia; Rabbi Michael Samuel of Temple; Rabbi Devorah Marcus, President of the San Diego Board of Rabbis; Fernando Lopez (they/them), Executive Director of San Diego Pride; Andrea Beth Damsky, Co-Chair of the DevOUT LGBTQ+ Interfaith Coalition.

Many of the speakers reminded us that White Supremacy has a history in the San Diego area, as it does in many other parts of the country. The speeches were passionate and moving.

As one of the speakers, I represented my little synagogue here in Chula Vista. What surprised most of us, if not all of us, was the huge number of people who came together and spoke in one strong voice. In my speech, I mentioned that education could no longer be value-free. The time has come for us to start teaching ethics, beginning with pre-school and continuing through grade school, high school, and college.  Encouraging local religious leaders and Holocaust survivors to come and relate their stories is a powerful way of addressing the problems and challenges that we face in our name. Steve Padilla proposed creating symposiums to bring many of our community leaders together to address the community.

Every crisis ought to be seen as an opportunity for growth and enlightenment. Some of the speakers even tried reaching out to the hate crime perpetrators, hoping that they might change if they realized how much they hurt our community and its reputation.

And while we will not most likely eliminate hatred of the Other, we can take meaningful steps to minimize the threats hate-group pose to our young people. In the question and answer period that followed, Sandy Scheller mentioned the Project Ruth exhibit being held at the Chula Vista Library Heritage Museum located at 366 F. St., in Chula Vista. Sandy encouraged all the local schools—including Bonita High School- to visit the museum, which has drawn large crowds from throughout San Diego county.

I mentioned that my father, Leo Samuel, a Holocaust survivor, used to visit high schools and colleges. My Aunt Miriam, who recently died two years ago, used to lecture students back in the 1950s before Holocaust awareness and education existed.

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