From staff and wire reports
After the scope of last Thursday’s Dallas shootings was fully realized, the Dallas Jewish community quickly came together to voice their anguish over the violence in Dallas that claimed the lives of five police officers.
On the evening of July 7, thousands marched in a peaceful protest in downtown Dallas, voicing concerns over the recent officer-involved shootings that led to deaths in Minnesota and Louisiana. Just as the rally ended, Micah Xavier Johnson, a 25-year-old Army reservist who served in Afghanistan and lived in Mesquite, shot 14 people, 12 of them policemen.
The Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance, which is located within two blocks of El Centro College, where the shootings occurred, had to close Friday as the investigation continued and pathways were cordoned off. The museum’s spokespeople expressed sorrow for the deaths of the police officers and the two African-Americans killed earlier in the week.
“We deplore acts of violence and hatred in all forms and urge our community to come together to embrace civil discourse. We value every life,” a museum release read. “We also feel great sorrow for the two shooting victims for whom the peaceful protest was being held and those protesters who were wounded.”
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings requested various religious leaders to hold an interfaith service, and the Faith Leaders United for Peace and Justice responded by planning the event in a number of hours. Hundreds arrived to share their grief and listen to speeches from several faith leaders.
Rabbi David Stern, of Temple Emanu-El, spoke at the Thanks-Giving Square gathering.
“The prayers this day do not come forth from this podium; the prayer is right here. The prayer is in each and every one of you; the prayer is in this tapestry of diversity that gathers in this place. … There is no peace in this city unless we help make peace in this city.”
Many in the crowd were somewhat on edge at the Thanks-Giving Square gathering, highlighted by a police helicopter circling above and between the skyscrapers during the speeches.
But they stayed to hear the healing, encouraging words of the city and state leaders.
Temple Shalom Senior Rabbi Andrew Paley was part of that planning committee. He did not speak at the gathering, but later Friday, Paley’s Shabbat sermon echoed the heartache around the Metroplex.
“It is one thing to read about a tragedy in some far-off land. Bombings in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia — all are horrific, no doubt. The mass shootings in the U.S. — Orlando; San Bernardino; Aurora, Colorado; Blacksburg, Virginia — all are awful, painful and outrageous and yet, all are far away. Even when tragedy struck Texas — Killeen in 1991, and Fort Hood in 2009 — that too seemed distant.
“Now tragedy has struck Dallas — again — in 2016. It is on our doorstep. The issues are upon us — here and now. We cannot turn a blind eye, nor believe that we are somehow immune to the problems out there. The problems are here.”
President Barack Obama, along with former President George W. Bush, spoke Tuesday at the Meyerson Symphony Center.
“These men and their families shared a commitment to something larger than themselves,” Obama said. “I know America. I know how far we’ve come against impossible odds. … I’m here to insist we are not as divided as we might seem.”
Obama also complimented Dallas’ retraining of officers, which he said is well known around the nation. He said Dallas had lower murder rates and fewer complaints of police conduct than the rest of the nation.
“The Dallas Police Department has been doing it the right way. … We ask so much of the police and not enough of ourselves.”
Obama also met with the families of the fallen officers.
Bush, who lives in Dallas, also praised the work of the officers, but asked everyone to judge themselves by the same standard they judge others.
“Those of us who love Dallas and call it home have had five deaths in the family. … (The officers’) courage is our protection and shield,” he said. … “Too often we judge other groups by their worst examples, but judge ourselves by our best intentions.”
Representing the Jewish community, Paley also delivered a message, preceding Dallas Police Chief David Brown.
The Anti-Defamation League condemned the killing of the five police officers “in strongest terms.”
“We have reached out to the Dallas Police Department to convey our condolences and offer support,” Roberta Clark, director of ADL’s Dallas region, said in a statement. “At this early point in the investigation, the motive for this odious attack is unknown and it would be irresponsible to jump to conclusions or cast blame. We must let the investigation run its course.”
“In the aftermath of this attack on law enforcement and the recent police shootings of black men in Minnesota and Louisiana, we appeal to the public to remain calm during this challenging and difficult time,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL’s CEO. “Violence should never beget violence. Solutions will be found only when we work together peacefully and engage in constructive dialogue.”
Many rabbis, pastors, priests and imams spent their services discussing the shootings, and many more people found ways to help. Two police cruisers at the Dallas police headquarters were blanketed in flowers, cards, candles and other memorial items by Saturday morning. Several houses of worship asked congregants to “back the blue” and wear blue to services, while others remembered the fallen in their own way.
Across the nation, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs condemned “in no uncertain terms” the killings of the five police officers.
But its president, David Bernstein, also responded to the Dallas incident with a direct call to transform the “adversarial” relationship between communities and law enforcement nationwide.
“Far too many African-Americans, particularly young men, have fallen victim to police violence, leaving an indelible mark on communities and families,” Bernstein said. “The spate of horrific police shootings shows that many police departments must undergo serious culture change, and see themselves as not only enforcers of the law but members of the community as well. We have a long way to go as a country.”
The Reform movement provided condolences for all of the week’s victims via the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, calling the continued bloodshed a “plague” related to gun violence.
“The tragic events of this week remind us that individual, structural and institutional racism persists in our country, with severe consequences. If one death is a tragedy, so many deaths is a plague,” an RAC statement read.
“As we are stunned by a week of shocking violence, our challenge is to find new ways to relate to each other across lines of difference, and to rebuild the damaged trust between law enforcement and the communities that they serve. For our society to be one of peace, justice, wholeness and compassion, this pattern of violence must end.”
Congregations remember fallen officers
Staff, contributed report
Around the Metroplex, many congregations found ways to remember the fallen officers.
Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) lost one officer, Brent Thompson, while four Dallas Police Department members died: officers Michael Krol and Patrick Zamarripa, Sgt. Michael Smith and Senior Cpl. Lorne Ahrens.
Smith was employed at the North Dallas police station, which is located across Hillcrest Road from Ohev Shalom. That congregation is holding a fundraiser for the fallen officer’s family.
Marcela Abadi Rhoads, who is spearheading the fund drive, said she and the congregation didn’t know Smith directly, but the precinct has done an excellent job helping Ohev Shalom.
“So, we were devastated when we found out it was one of them,” she wrote in an email.
Rhoads wrote that, as of Tuesday, more than $2,000 had been raised. Ohev Shalom hopes to present the check to the police department next week.
At Congregation Beth Torah, about 300 people gathered at Sunday afternoon for an interfaith prayer service to promote unity and understanding in the wake of the past week’s tragedies.
Beth Torah Rabbi Elana Zelony arranged and hosted the service, which brought together civic leaders, police officials and religious leaders from various faiths offering prayers of reconciliation and hope after the deaths of five police officers in Dallas, and black men in Louisiana and Minnesota.
“As neighbors were are one,” said the Rev. Debra Hobbs Mason of First United Methodist Church of Richardson, and chair of the Richardson Interfaith Alliance. “Your pain is my pain. Your heartache is my heartache. And your joy is my joy.”
Rev. Charles Reese, founder of the Collin County Southern Christian Leadership Conference, said the killings have “called human judgment into question and subpoenaed us to appear in the court of human reflection.”
But love, hope and prayer will overcome grief and conquer hate, he said.
“No human has ever won a war against God,” Rev. Reese said. “God has the amazing ability to write straight with crooked lines. After every storm is a rainbow.”
Emrah Aktepe, a Turkish Muslim who heads the Dialogue Institute of the Southwest, said that despite the sadness and tension, “We manage to pray together, we manage to act together. Let’s get to know one another.”
Rev. Kris Totzke, pastor of St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Richardson, concurred, calling for people to speak out and to act to counter violence and hatred.
“May our voices of hope drown out the voices of hate,” she said.
Other speakers included Richardson Mayor Paul Voelker, Allen Police Deputy Chief Ken Myers, Jewish Community Relations Council Executive Director Anita Zusman Eddy, Nancy Sperandeo of the area Baha’i Community and Shyam Kanagala of the Shirdi Sai Baba Temple.
— Michael Precker contributed to this story.