Local clergy speaks out against hate crimes

Rabbi Jack Romberg (left) was supports by several ministers, including Rev. R. B. Holmes (right) at a recent press conference where they spoke out against hate crimes.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine

By St. Clair Murraine

Outlook staff writer

It was a scene unlike any in the synagogue at Temple Israel.

More than 20 members of the Tallahassee clergy, most representing Black churches, were there in solidarity to condemn the spate of attacks on synagogues around the country. They met for a press conference in the wake of last month’s shooting Poway Synagogue in California.

“Let me make it abundantly clear to those hate group on-line and off-line; Jews are here to stay,” said Rev. R.B. Holmes, who arranged the press conference with Jack Romberg, rabbi at Temple Israel.

“Black, brown, Muslims and other people that love America; we ain’t going anywhere,” said Holmes, who also is publisher of the Capital Outlook. “We are not going to let anybody divide us or turn us around.”

Six months before the Poway shooting, which took one person’s life and left three others injured, an anti-Semitic gunman attacked the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pa., killing 11 people. It has been determined to be the deadest anti-Semitic attack in the country.

Additionally, the country is seeing an increase in burning of Black churches. The most recent in Louisiana, where three churches were burned over a two-day span.

Following Charlottesville attack, Holmes and Romberg joined forces to drive a message of harmony among races and religions. A coming together of churches and synagogues is a vital step in stemming the violence against houses of religion, Romberg said.

“Be it the African Americans and all the awful things that are being done in their churches, be it now the anti-Semitism that is expressed by two shootings within six months, be it the hatred of Muslins and some of the oppression in the mosques; all of this has to be opposed,” Romberg said. “It is incredibly sad to see the constant hatred that is going on.”

Violent attacks against the Jewish community in the United States doubled last year, according to a recent report by the Anti-Defamation League. The report published by CBS News also said the ADL indicated that physical assaults have increased from 19 in 2017 to 21 last year.

Obviously alluding to President Donald Trump’s reaction to a 2017 clash of White supremacist and counters protestors in Charlottesville, when he said there were good people on both sides Rev. David C. Killeen, rector at St. John’s Episcopal Church, called on politician to bring about change.

“We sharply condemn the rhetoric and action of public leaders that instigate the type of violence that we saw in California and that we see happening throughout the world,” Killeen said. “Today we stand for love in both words and deeds; a love that can cast out fear.”

His sentiment was echoed by Pastor Joseph Wright, who brought the message home when he called on Gov. Ron DeSantis to issue a proclamation against hate crimes.

“We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters of the Jewish faith because through one blood comes all nations,” said Wright, pastor at Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church. “When they hurt, we hurt. When they suffer, we suffer. When they rejoice, we rejoice with them.”

In part, the ministers indicated they would like congregants to know they don’t need to fear going to a place of worship. A show of solidarity like the press conference is the kind of action that will assure the safety of churches and synagogues, said Lee Johnson, pastor of Love by Jesus Family Church.

“This is the beginning,” Johnson said. “We may not see (change) but our grandchildren may be the ones to inherit what we do today. This is a spark where there will be other groups; other congregations assembled across this country just as we are to say no more.”