Multi-faith response to attack on California synagogue held on UK's campus

Published: May. 2, 2019 at 11:48 PM EDT
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Chabad of the Bluegrass and UK's Chabad Jewish Student Center hosted a "Community Response to Terror" Thursday at the Gatton Student Center.

The event was held in response to the attack over the weekend at a California synagogue in which one worshipper was killed and three others -- the rabbi, a child, and another person -- were injured.

Rabbi Shlomo Litvin of Chabad of the Bluegrass said the hateful attack in Poway, California didn't begin in the synagogue parking lot.

"It began with hateful words that people around them ignored, that no one thought troubling, and it ended with hateful actions," he said.

The attack was personal for Litvin. Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, who was injured in the shooting, is a close friend and mentor.

"Rabbi Goldstein introduced my father-in-law to his wife, so without Rabbi Goldstein, I wouldn't have my family," Litvin said.

Thursday's event attracted a small group of people from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds.

"I think it is very important that we are all children of God, that God created us all equally, and whether you're a Muslim or a Jew or a Christian or other faith, we are all here together to love each other and to learn from each other," said attendee Nadia Rasheed.

The service featured Psalm readings and the lighting of the menorah -- increasing light, Litvin said, to dispel the darkness.

The gunman acted out of ignorance, Litvin said, hoping Thursday's experience would instead build knowledge.

"Knowledge is always the end to hate," he said. "Chabad stands for 'Wisdom, Knowledge, Understanding.' When you know someone, it is very hard to hate them."

As a way to prevent violence, Rabbi Litvin advocates for a mandatory moment of silence in Kentucky schools.

"A moment of silence for the students themselves to contemplate 'What is it that I believe? What are the values that I hold dear? And what do I want to put out into the world?' Because if we can change our children, we can change our future," he said.

He said the town of Poway should be remembered as an acronym: the Power Of Words And You.

"Every person has a choice which words to use. Every person has a choice what to say, what not to say, and when to speak up against someone else's words."

Chabad of the Bluegrass invites people of all faiths to a series of classes on ethics, set to begin this Saturday at 7 p.m. at 568 Columbia Avenue in Lexington.