COLUMN - Knowledge can prevent hate crimes

I've been going to a Jewish temple the past two Friday nights. The first time I went there, Sharna, the person who took me there, handed me a small white "hat." That "hat" was a keepa (did I spell that correctly?). I say it wrong during the week, but I always pronounce it right on Friday. As I sat there listening to the sermon, I couldn't get one thought out of head, "Why do people practice racism against Jews?"

We had gotten to temple early (it's not called church) and I just kept turning my head and looking at all of my surroundings. I can honestly say I had never seen a temple or church for that matter and I was thinking at the time, "This is a beautiful place, I'm glad that I am able to see this." If anyone is Jewish or has been to a Jewish temple, you know what I'm talking about. For one who is not new to the Jewish culture, but new to the temple, it was very exciting; words cannot even begin to describe it.

Everyone welcomed each other with the phrase, "Shabbat Shalom." It was very different speaking Hebrew around or to so many people. I felt weird speaking Hebrew or singing it among people who spoke it for many years before I started to use it. According to Sharna, my friend, on Jan. 25 I did a good job speaking or saying things I had never used before this month. I replied with, "It's easy to understand after the first time."

The second sermon was also about Moses, but this time the choir and the audience sung the sermon. I know I've haven't been to or heard a sermon like that.

I know I loved the two services I went to. The first one was talking about Moses and the ninth plague to the Egyptians. Now, for those who don't know, the ninth plague was the plague of darkness. I thought this was interesting because the rabbi didn't "preach" per se, but she had a conversation/discussion about the plague of darkness both physically, in the Bible and figuratively as in the darkness in one's attitudes toward other people.

I love my own religion, but I also find it very helpful to understand another religion. It should make people think about why they hate another religion especially if they don't know why. It reminds me of a gang rivalry. Why do two gangs hate each other? They don't know why, but they do because of something that happened before most of the members were born.

I believe that because you're in college, you're in a "safety-net area." Here you can learn more about different things before you travel to the "real world" because once you graduate from here and go into your respective careers, you have to understand other people. That's the way the United States works today.

This is the time and place for you to go to a Jewish temple; this is the place where you go to a Spectrum meeting to know that all people are the same; this is the place you learn about different ethnic groups.

If people went to a place that could teach them about different cultures, different religions or different ethnic groups, I don't think we would have as many of the problems we do. Because statistics show that teen-age white males are responsible for most hate crimes, maybe if they were able to get a chance to learn about others the number of hate crimes would drop.

Then again, maybe my door wouldn't be defaced right now. To learn more about that, tune in next week.


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