Thursday, June 11, 2009

In Memory of Stephen Tyrone Johns

Please join me in a moment of silence, honoring the memory of Stephen Tyrone Johns, who died heroically yesterday defending the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

In my eternal optimism, it is easy to think that everything is okay, that everyone wants peace and tolerance as much as I do. As a rabbi and as a human being, I believe strongly in the value of Tikkun Olam, the repairing of the broken world around us. We are all responsible for making this world a better place, and for helping people strive to be GOOD.

And yet, yesterday's tragic events remind us all to be mindful of the darker side that is ever-present.There are those who are dedicated to hate, to brokenness, to destruction. Here was a presumably lone gunman who was "well-known to the authorities," a man who has served time in prison for domestic terrorism before, yet he was allowed to have a gun and perpetuate hate. He has published unbelievably disgusting books that were both racist and anti-Semitic.

As a rabbi, I always aim for a nechemta, a word of comfort at the end of a teaching. For me, I must turn to a quote from the Holocaust Museum's website, a quote that reminds me that we are all mandated to work for peace:

"On January 27, 1998, Yehuda Bauer, professor of Holocaust studies at the Avraham Harman Institute of Contemporary Jewry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, delivered a speech to the German Bundestag in which he said 'I come from a people who gave the Ten Commandments to the world. Time has come to strengthen them by three additional ones, which we ought to adopt and commit ourselves to: thou shall not be a perpetrator; thou shall not be a victim; and thou shall never, but never, be a bystander.'"