February 27, 2017
, San Francisco -- The desecration of the Jewish cemetery in St. Louis last week and yesterday in Philadelphia has brought cries of indignation, sorrow and despair.
For me, it is a frightening reminder of the past - a past I thought was behind me; the past which brought on World War II and the murder of six million Jews.
A vision of things to come happened in 1939 - Krystallnacht - wholesale destruction of Jewish homes, stores, synagogues and cemeteries.
I am not suggesting that the cemetery desecration last week and this week was the American version of that awful night, but I am suggesting it may be a wakeup call for those of us who value everything America has stood for since the signing of the Constitution those hundreds of years ago.
Have we always lived up to that Constitution? No, we have not. The history of the African American community in our country provides ample proof of that.
But during the last several decades we have proved that we have learned something. We have learned that prejudice against one group or another hurts us all.
And the faith community has been at the forefront of that learning, marching with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to Selma and in many other ways since then.
And with Muslims under attack, the faith community is leading the way in support of their rights. So it must be with every incident which threatens any of us.
The first amendment to the Constitution is our safeguard and we must remain vigilant and protect those rights which are guaranteed under it.
And we must do it together - all religions, all races, all of us together.
We must hold our government responsible - our City, our State and most important of all, our Federal government.
We need to speak out loudly and respectfully, but speak out we must. The future of America is at stake.
Rita R. Semel
Founder and Past Chair
San Francisco Interfaith Council