The suspect in the synagogue shooting near San Diego, California, where one person was murdered and three more injured, is a 19-year-old white man named John Earnest, according to Sheriff William Gore. One of the wounded was the Synagogue’s Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein who was shot in the hand during Shabbat services — but insisted on finishing his sermon—before being taken to the hospital.
Gore confirmed that a manifesto in his name was published on Saturday morning on an online message board popular with the far-right nationalists. The writer of the manifesto took credit for an unsolved arson at a mosque last month in Escondido, nine miles away from the Poway synagogue. Earnest is now being investigated in relation to that incident, Gore said.
The Escondido arsonist reportedly left a note at the scene praising Brenton Tarrant, who killed 50 worshippers at New Zealand mosques last month. The Poway manifesto also praises Tarrant. The Poway document also praised Robert Bowers, the accused gunman in last year’s Pittsburgh synagogue massacre. Eleven people were killed in that attack, which took place six months to the day before the Poway shooting.
The manifesto, which also claims Earnest was a nursing student, is filled with anti-Semitic invective and cites Christian Bible verses to justify his actions.
All this teaches us that everyone should be constantly reminded that religious extremism is ultimately self-destructive to both its self, and its supporters. In the words of the poet W. B. Yeats: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold… The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”
The time has come for all the best of religious conviction, to denounce and denigrate the activities and beliefs of those who are filled with the worst of religious convictions, before they desecrate and diminish all believers in the one God of Abraham.
Our religious and political leaders could help improve interfaith relations by constantly repeating the important lesson taught by the German Protestant theologian Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) about the cowardice of German intellectuals following the Nazis’ rise to power; and their subsequent purging of their chosen targets, one group after another group:
First they arrested Socialists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a Socialist.
Then they arrested Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they arrested Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out for me.
And our religious and political leaders could also help improve interfaith relations by constantly repeating the important lesson taught by an eleventh century Spanish Muslim theologian:
Declare your jihad on thirteen enemies you cannot see – Egoism, Arrogance, Conceit, Selfishness, Greed, Lust, Intolerance, Anger, Lying, Cheating, Gossiping and Slandering. If you can master and destroy them, then will you be ready to fight the enemy you can see.
Allen S. Maller is an ordained Reform Rabbi who retired in 2006 after 39 years as the Rabbi of Temple Akiba in Culver City, California. His website is: www.rabbimaller.com. He blogs at the Times of Israel and his book ‘Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms: A Reform Rabbi’s Reflections on the Profound Connectedness of Islam and Judaism’ (31 articles by Rabbi Maller previously published by Islamic web sites) is for sale ($15) on Amazon.