About 350 people gathered in an East Memphis synagogue Monday evening to show their support for the Jewish community and object to the recent desecration of a Torah scroll.
“How do we defeat darkness?” asked Rabbi Shai Finkelstein, senior rabbi of Baron Hirsch Congregation, which hosted the meeting. “We create more light with tolerance and unity.”
In addition to a number of rabbis and Christian clergy, those who attended included Memphis Mayor AC Wharton, U.S. Atty. Ed Stanton, and Jackson (Tenn.) Mayor Jerry Gist.
The Torah scroll from Margolin Hebrew Academy in East Memphis was vandalized last month while students on a field trip were spending the night at a Jackson hotel.
“I took this to be a direct hit at me,” 11th-grader Jake Pollack told the audience Monday night. He was on the field trip along with dozens of other boys who attend Margolin’s Cooper Yeshiva High School.
“For the first time I felt it. We all felt what it was like to be discriminated against because of our beliefs.”
Other speakers called on the community to stand up against all hate crimes, including acts of vandalism, regardless of their severity.
“The Holocaust began with hate crimes,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. “Evil cannot be stopped only through prayer and good deeds.”