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For the three years I served as the Executive Director of the Saint Paul Area Council of Churches (now Interfaith Action of Greater Saint Paul), I gathered with youth from the metro area on Presidents’ Day for an Interfaith Day of Service. Coming from Christian, Jewish, Muslim and other religious traditions, these high schoolers spent a day together in thoughtful conversation and community service, affirming what it means to live with respect for one another.
As these youth led their Presidents’ Day interfaith activities this year, a bomb threat was made against the Jewish Community Center in Saint Paul. In recent days, anti-Semitic graffiti and direct threats have been made against Jewish students at the University of Minnesota. Elsewhere in the country, synagogues and Jewish cemeteries have been desecrated. These cruel, ugly actions are meant to frighten and demean our Jewish neighbors.
Threats and intimidation – whether through anonymous calls, graffiti or direct hate speech – go against everything we value as people of faith. In a statement adopted by the Church Council of the ELCA, our faith tradition proclaims: “We recognize in anti-Semitism a contradiction and affront to the Gospel, a violation of our hope and calling, and we pledge this church to oppose the deadly working of such bigotry, both within our own circles and in the society around us.” (Declaration of ELCA to Jewish Community)
Attacking any community because of their faith tradition or ethnic identity is simply wrong. Graffiti, vandalism, taunts on social media or public invectives that question the humanity or dignity of any of our neighbors call us to respond in active and public ways.
As a bishop, I know that writing pastoral messages is not enough. In our homes and congregations we must actively teach our children that those who bear the name Christian do not express hatred or violence against the Jewish community or any religious tradition. Wherever and whenever hatred is expressed, I ask us as the Lutherans of the Saint Paul Area Synod to confront and condemn those who engage in anti-Semitic speech or action. Our children, our youth and our college students need to know that the deep faith in us makes room for the deep faith in others.
I am grateful for the staff of the Jewish Community Center, those in law enforcement, and the firefighters, who acted so quickly to evacuate the many children and others when the bomb threat was received. I am also grateful for so many of you who will respond to this message with renewed support for your Jewish friends, family members and neighbors. Hate and violence have no place in the lives we have been called to lead.
Bishop Patricia Lull