Rabbi Sheldon Lewis addresses the audience at "Human Rights for All" on Dec. 9. (Photo/Jack Owicki)
Rabbi Sheldon Lewis addresses the audience at "Human Rights for All" on Dec. 9. (Photo/Jack Owicki)

Rainbow coalition of clergy pushes back against hate in Palo Alto 

Banding together to raise their voices against hate crimes, an interfaith group of clergy from across Palo Alto rallied on Dec. 9.

“Hatred is a dark side of being human,” said Rabbi Sheldon Lewis, rabbi emeritus of Congregation Kol Emeth, in a speech at the event, “Human Rights for All,” held at Palo Alto’s First United Methodist Church.

“Who is it among us who has never hated?” Lewis said. “And yet we know we are not powerless when we are visited by such feelings.”

The gathering was organized by Multifaith Voices for Peace and Justice, a group of 16 local religious organizations. Others who spoke included Shaykh Alauddin El-Bakri, of the West Valley Muslim Association Mosque in Saratoga, and Rev. Debra Murray.

In August, three congregations — Etz Chayim, Kol Emeth and Beth Am — helped rally support around Murray and her church, First United Methodist, after she was threatened for publicly supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.

First United Methodist Church in Palo Alto. (Photo/Jack Owicki)
First United Methodist Church in Palo Alto on the night of the event. (Photo/Jack Owicki)

“For white people, it was very powerful to hear a leader describe her experience of such raw and frightening hatred, in the context of her life as a Black woman in America,” said Rabbi Amy Eilberg, who estimated that 75 people attended the event in person (it was also streamed). “It was also moving to hear first-person stories from an imam, a Latino pastor, and an LGBTQ leader about experiences of hate and dehumanization.”

There have been multiple hate crimes in Palo Alto over the past year, according to ABC7, with the bulk targeting Asian Americans.

Rev. Debra Murray greets attendees at "Human Rights for All," an anti-hate event in Palo Alto on Dec. 9, 2021. (Photo/Jack Owicki)
Rev. Debra Murray greets attendees at “Human Rights for All,” an anti-hate event in Palo Alto on Dec. 9, 2021. (Photo/Jack Owicki)

According to Eilberg, 30 synagogues, churches and interfaith organizations signed on to co-sponsor and publicize the event. Multifaith Voices includes Buddhist, Baha’i, Catholic and Lutheran congregations, among others, as well as Beyt Tikkun, a Renewal synagogue in Berkeley. The event was held to coincide with the United Nations’ Human Rights Day on Dec. 10.