JCC rally calls for racial, religious unity after L.A. attack

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There wasn't much time to get the word out.

The announcement was made just last Friday, but it spread quickly — by mouth, telephone, fax and e-mail. Fliers were distributed. And the news spread through churches, synagogues and the media.

Late notice, but effective.

On Sunday night, about 300 people showed up for a solidarity rally at the Berkeley Richmond Jewish Community Center. Several Easy Bay Jewish groups organized the gathering in response to the Aug. 10 shooting at the North Valley Jewish Community Center in Granada Hills and the slaying of a Filipino-American postal carrier.

Berkeley police stood outside the center's entrance throughout the event, which lasted 1-1/4 hours.

Cutting across religious, racial and ethnic lines, Sunday's crowd included Filipino-Americans who were specifically invited to speak and attend the rally.

"I think it's time to stand up against violence. These attacks are too frequent and too close," said Anita Cotton of Oakland, who heard about the rally at Shabbat services on Friday night. She considered it important that non-Jews joined the rally because such violence "can happen to any community when someone feels like they are outsiders."

Some people came looking for comfort and security.

"It's important for various members of the Jewish community to come together for support at a time like this," said audience member Teri Appleby of Berkeley. "We need a forum to share our emotions and pray together."

Her husband, Jonathan Leo, agreed. "It's times like this that make me aware of the precariousness and vulnerability of being Jewish," he said.

At the rally, however, he felt a sense of security in numbers .

Yehuda Goodman, a Jerusalem resident and visiting scholar at U.C. Berkeley, considers the Los Angeles incident as part of a chain of events that includes the Littleton, Colo., massacre and sees the necessity for some form of gun control.

"It's meaningful that there are people here from different faiths," Goodman said, adding that white supremacist groups don't make distinctions. "We saw that in Los Angeles."

Suspect Buford O. Furrow Jr. confessed that he shot postal carrier Joseph Ileto because he was not white and worked for the federal government. He also reportedly called the JCC attack "a wake-up call to America to kill Jews."

At the rally, it was clear from the speakers that they see the Los Angeles attacks as more than just a Jewish or Filipino issue.

"We join with you to turn hate crimes into a catalyst for social justice," Lillian Galedo of the Filipino Civil Rights Advocates told the crowd. She called for passage of the proposed federal Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

Galedo described telling her daughter that the Sunday's rally would help show the world that Filipino-Americans are not scared.

"But mommy," he daughter responded, "we are scared."

To which Galedo responded: "We will not be scared into silence. We will be moved into action."

Galedo also joined in the singing of "Araw Na," a freedom song in Tagalog.

Berkeley Mayor Shirley Dean used the forum as an opportunity to call for gun control.

"If our brother or sister is hurt, we are hurt," she said. "Let's get together and get rid of the guns on the street."

Alameda County Supervisors Keith Carson and Wilma Chan, who is the board president, also addressed the crowd.

Some of the speakers said the L.A.-area incident certainly was not the first nor would it be the last act of anti-Semitic or racially inspired violence.

Rabbi Ted Feldman, executive director of the Jewish Family and Children's Services of the East Bay, recounted incidents that occurred over the weekend: a swastika and "Jews die" were spray-painted on a Los Angeles synagogue and a Peninsula man was arrested for allegedly making threats against the Albert L. Schultz Jewish Community Center in Palo Alto.

Feldman acknowledged the feelings of fear and vulnerability that such acts create. But he added that standing together generates strength and power.

The Rev. A.C. Ubalde Jr., a Filipino-American who heads the United Methodist Congregation in Vallejo, echoed Feldman's comments.

"How good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters dwell in unity," said Ubalde, quoting Psalm 133 — better known to Jews as "Hinei Mah Tov."

Ubalde emphasized the importance of alliances between religious and racial communities.

"Why does it take a tragic incident like this to bring us together? Let us dwell together in unity."

When he finished, the audience spontaneously began singing "Hinei Mah Tov."

The rally concluded with a healing service led by Rabbis Ferenc Raj and Jane Litman of Berkeley's Congregation Beth El.

Vivian Clayton, a Berkeley resident and Beth El member who attended with her 10-year-old daughter, Moriah, felt good about the evening.

"I wanted to show my daughter the importance of goodness — which is hard to sustain in the face of anger and hatred," she said.