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Community rallies around Temple Beth Shalom

The following are excerpts from comments shared at Temple Beth Shalom, which opened their Shabbat celebration of the Sukkot harvest festival for the community to gather in solidarity after defacement of the temple by a swastika painted on their building on Oct. 3, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.


For Sukkot, we are instructed to build and eat in a sukkah, a small outdoor booth open to the elements.  This practice is in celebration of the beauty and bounty of nature, and reminiscent of the temporary dwellings Israelites created when they wandered in the desert.  The booths remind us of our vulnerability to nature and to God.

The sukkot booth is not just open to the elements, but also encourages us to go outside the walls of cozy homes we create for ourselves for comfort and shelter.  Our homes can separate us from the outside world, keeping us in the silos we live in.   Sukkot invites us outside to see the world, welcome guests and connect with others. 

Recently the comfort of our home was shattered by an act of Anti-Semitism.  Anti-Semitism comes in many forms—as subtle stereotypes about Jews and money, as Jews controlling media or government, as anti-Israel sentiment, and as overt acts of hatred and intimidation, such as the swastika on our building and violence towards the Jewish community, such as the shooting this spring in the Overland Park Jewish Community Center. 

Pretending it doesn’t exist or minimizing its impact does no good. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, former chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom, teaches:  “Anti-semitism is never ultimately about Jews. It is about a profound human failure to accept that we are diverse and must create space for diversity if we are to preserve our humanity.” 

Speaking against Anti-Semitism and all forms of prejudice, racial and ethnic hatred, and teaching our children to do so are powerful tools to preserve our humanity. 

Those who came to the service spoke out against hate, intimidation and fear.   We opened the walls of our sukkah and welcomed them.  We experienced connection, support and strength to weather Anti-Semitism.  As we have blessed the Source of life and one another, so may we be blessed.

Rabbi Tamar Malino
Temple Beth Shalom


At an Atlanta conference, I met the Rev. C.T. Vivian, who received the 2013 Presidential Medal of Freedom for his work as a civil rights leader.  As an aide to Martin Luther King Jr., he helped develop the nonviolent movement.  He advocated for religious leaders to be active in the civil rights movement—emphasizing that hatred is a sickness.  You don’t get angry with sick people. You heal them. Healing is spiritual. 

When I said I was from Spokane, he smiled and said, “You have been doing good work in your neck of the woods, but still have a ways to go.  We all do. It takes radical love to defeat radical evil.”

After hearing what happened on Yom Kippur, I thought, “One step forward, three steps back.”  We will never stop hatred if we aren’t willing to love. Love cannot exist if we allow ourselves to feel dejected and insular. It takes courage and vulnerability to love. In that vulnerability, we enter into partnership with one another. I can only be fully human if those around me can as well.

With a rich history of pluralism here, we need to lean on one another and include ALL of the community to make Spokane a better place to live.

The Buddha went to the market place to be with others after enlightenment. Christ gave the Sermon on the Mount after his Transfiguration.  After receiving the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai, Moses came down to be with his people. The prophet Mohammed (PBUH), after receiving revelation, shared the teachings with his community. The lesson is: Once you find yourself, share with others and make your community a better place.

When I help build Dr. King’s “beloved community,” my actions affect others. I draw motivation and meaning from others, because I can only be fully myself with others.  Radical love will defeat radical evil.

Skyler Oberst
Spokane Human Rights Commission
New president of Spokane Interfaith Council


I express not only my heartfelt support and solidarity, but also my deep sadness.  No children are born bigots.  They are taught to be so.  That is why we Christians need to clearly denounce such hateful actions and sentiments and commit ourselves to educate our children to reject anti-Semitism. 

We need to recognize the sad history in which Christians were responsible for so much suffering and persecution of Jews over the centuries.…After meditation at Jerusalem’s Western Wall in 2000, St. Pope John Paul II placed in the wall a written prayer to God expressing deep sadness for all the wrongs done to Jews by Christians.  It ended, “Asking your forgiveness, we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood with the people of the Covenant.”

With similar sentiments, I say to Rabbi Malino that Catholics in Eastern Washington stand with her community and unhesitatingly and completely denounce in the strongest terms possible this deplorable action and the bigotry it represents.

….I ask that the Jewish people be remembered in general intercessions, asking God to purify the hearts of those who harbor bigotry towards them, and to remove the veil of hatred and ignorance from the hearts of those who were responsible for this abhorrence.

The Most Rev. Blasé Cupich,
Bishop of Spokane – read by Father Patrick Hartin, ecumenical officer


I echo these concerns about the desecration against Temple Beth Shalom’s house of worship and the hate crime against that community. 

Speaking on behalf of Manito Presbyterian Church, when we learned of this despicable act, our hearts broke.  We immediately wanted to stand in solidarity with TBS in this difficult time.

I also bring an official message from the Presbytery of the Inland Northwest, which represents 46 congregations in Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho, comprising thousands of Christians.  We also stand with you and condemn this hateful threat.

As an ordained theologian in the Presbyterian Church (USA), I affirm the commitment our national church made in 1987 in “A Theological Understanding of the Relationship between Christians and Jews,” “never again to participate in, to contribute to, or (insofar as we are able) to allow the persecution or denigration of Jews.”

As your neighbors, Manito Presbyterian Church is saddened and sobered by the fact that it took until 1987 to make such a clear, strong declaration in support of our Jewish brothers and sisters. So in our commitment to stand with you, we do not stand as ‘pure people,’ but as a people who have had hateful hearts in the past and had the ability to fear the stranger. 

We come with a renewed pledge to commit to one another in love, respect, dialogue, honor and service.  One of the best ways we can stand together against such hateful, terrible, awful acts is to work together ceaselessly for the causes of justice and peace.  I look forward to ways we can do that together in the future.

The Rev. Scott Starbuck - Pastor of Manito Presbyterian Church


When a spiritual community has its building desecrated, whether it is Jewish, Islamic, Christian or Sikh, I feel an inner compulsion to do what I can do to let them know there are other spiritual communities in the area that support their right to peacefully co-exist.

Our country was based on the idea of religious freedom. When the early colonies tried to create a single religious state, people and leaders rose up and said “no.”  The moral value of each and every religion’s right to having its own forum prevailed. I understand that, at the time, this did not include Native American Shamanism, but with time, that has changed and Shamanism is now recognized and honored as a religion within our country.

When we look at the current global scenario, human strife and violence embraces almost half the world, based on the lack of respect one religion has for another.

We can say this has nothing to do with us, until a synagogue is desecrated in our own town.

Some teachers among us believe theirs is the only way and disregard hundreds, if not thousands, of years of spiritual history. Global strife begins within homes where religious “racism” is alive and well.

The Spokane Interfaith Council educates and brings together members of different faith paths who break bread together. By getting to know each other, we work toward mutual respect.

The Rev. Joe Niemiec
Center for Spiritual Living
Recent past president of the Spokane Interfaith Council

Copyright © November 2014 - The Fig Tree