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Eleven people lost their lives yesterday because of sinat chinam or baseless hatred. May the memory of their innocent lives be a blessing and a call to action.

וַיֹּ֖אמֶר מֶ֣ה עָשִׂ֑יתָ ק֚וֹל דְּמֵ֣י אָחִ֔יךָ צֹעֲקִ֥ים אֵלַ֖י מִן־הָֽאֲדָמָֽה׃

And He said: ‘What have you done?
The voice of your brother’s blood cries to Me from the ground.

These words from Genesis were directed at Cain following the slaying of his brother. Baseless hatred motivated his senseless act of violence as Abel became the scapegoat for Cain’s problems.

Today Jews, Muslims, LGBTQ people, women, immigrants and so many other groups are being made into scapegoats for angry militants who are targeting them. We have created a society that amplifies otherness and celebrates a culture of dehumanization. This loss of life is the fruit of a vicious tree that we have collectively nurtured.

We are faced with the same question as was asked of Cain: What have we done? At what point have we contributed to narratives that divide us and create an excuse for hate? Have we intervened when those close to us make inflammatory statements about other groups of people? Have we continued to consume media that vilifies? Have we diminished the status of those that we deem to be not like us? Have we given power and votes to those who drive wedges into the identity of our communities and nations?

Also pressing is the question of what we will do now. How do we best honour those who have been taken from us much too soon? It is not only our responsibility to reach out to those directly impacted by these acts, but we must also work tirelessly to snuff out the flames of hatred in every form. We must address the hate that we harbour within our own hearts and stand up for those groups of others that are maligned and targeted.

Weapons do not kill people…people with access to weapons kill people. We as a society are compelled to take action to prevent this type of violence from happening again. Thoughts and prayers are not enough, we have a moral duty to seek out opportunities to act to save future lives. Some members of our community in Canada are US citizens. I would encourage you to demand of your congressional representatives that concrete steps be taken to reinstate a federal assault weapons ban. I would encourage Canadian citizens to educate yourself on hate speech in Canada, online threats to our political leaders, and the rising anti-Semitic, Anti-Muslim and Anti-LGBTQ rhetoric in our public discourse. We must stand up for one another and deny violence and hate a place within our communities.

J. Spencer Brawner
Temple Beth Ora