LA interfaith event shows solidarity with targeted communities

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Politicians, law enforcement and clergy from a variety of faiths gathered at Mount Sinai Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills on Sunday in a show of “unity, love and mutual respect” following a series of suspected hate crimes, vandalism and arson targeting people and sacred sites around the nation.

The Together We Stand event was held here to make “a strong statement of solidarity” with Jewish and Muslim communities whose cemeteries and houses of worship have been targeted, organizers said. The interfaith service, which included songs, spiritual readings and speeches, was not publicly advertised in advance for security reasons.

Aimee Ginsburg Bikel, the widow of civil rights activist and musician-actor Theodore Bikel, said her late husband used to say we know what happens when good people stay silent. Theodore Bikel, she said, was alluding to what happened to his beloved Vienna in 1938, when the Nazis took over a few months after his bar mitzvah, the Jewish coming-of-age ceremony for a boy.

“We celebrate Theo’s legacy today, raising our voices now — not later — asserting that the red lines have already been crossed and that we won’t allow it,” Aimee Ginsburg Bikel, director of the Theodore Bikel Legacy Project, said. “We will stay united and we will build a world of peace together.”

The Theodore Bikel Legacy Project co-sponsored Sunday’s interfaith event with Mount Sinai Memorial Parks and Mortuaries.

Rabbi Ed Feinstein of Valley Beth Shalom in Encino said most people outgrow “primal binaries” in which we see the world as divided into good guys and bad guys or us and them. Unfortunately, not everyone who reaches adulthood learns to think in more nuance, he said.

“What is it that we’re here to protest today? Not just the desecration of cemeteries but the desecration of a fundamental ideal of humanity,” he said. “We can’t live in binaries — that will destroy us. The enemy today is the narrative of otherness.”

The woman who wears the Islamic head scarf and is assaulted on a New York subway by someone who tells her “Go back to your country” is “my sister” and “she is my problem,” Feinstein said.

The Sikh man who wears a turban and is assaulted in front of his home by someone shouting “you don’t belong here” is “my brother” and “he is my problem,” he said.

So is the gay or lesbian couple or transgender child in a high school looking for a bathroom, he said.

“This narrative of otherness, that is what we have come to declare war against,” Feinstein said.


In February, two Indian immigrants were shot at a Kansas bar. One died of his injuries. The suspect in the shootings reportedly yelled “get out of my country.” And in Washington state earlier this month, a Sikh man was shot after the gunman allegedly walked onto his driveway and told him to “go back to your own country,” according to media reports.

There have also been acts of vandalism in recent weeks against Jewish cemeteries in Philadelphia, St. Louis and Rochester as well as an arson fire at a mosque in Tampa.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said that rather than despair in these difficult times, people have been gifted by God with the power to love and lead and to find friendship and connection.

“It’s time for us to stop thinking so much about the most powerful person in this country and to start thinking again about the most vulnerable people in this country,” Garcetti said to applause.

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