Tolerance museum not the answer

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The torching of three Sacramento-area synagogues is a tragedy. That is a given.

But what will be done to assure such acts of hate are not repeated? A number of community leaders, including rabbis, Gov. Gray Davis and Sacramento's mayor, have called for the establishment of a museum of tolerance to help inoculate young people against hate.

The idea is gaining momentum. On Tuesday, the governor promised state funding for the project. A local nonprofit came forward with the first museum donation, a $10,000 pledge.

It's heartening to see the community reacting to the burnings, not only in words, but in deeds.

Still, do we really need another museum or monument in California?

Designing and building such a museum could take years. It's clear the need to teach tolerance and understanding is pressing. The predawn fires that charred the synagogues last week underscore that fact.

What's more, a museum of tolerance might not target those who most need to absorb its message.

Those most in need of such a museum are more likely to paint swastikas on its walls than amble through its halls pondering its lessons.

Sacramento Mayor Joe Serna Jr. was right when he said hate crimes must be stopped with education. With the images of the fires clear in citizens' minds, now is the time for the state to institute mandatory programs in the public schools teaching tolerance and diversity.

The thousands and thousands of dollars that would go to build a museum could go a long way in funding such programs.

Corporations, labor organizations, governments and community groups should make tolerance education a priority. It's an issue that needs to be tackled today.