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April 15, 2014

Local rabbi, a Kansas native, reflects on slayings

MARBLEHEAD — The hate-crime shootings at two Jewish facilities in Kansas on Sunday hit close to home for Rabbi David Meyer of Temple Emanu-El in Marblehead.

Meyer grew up in the Shawnee Mission area south of Kansas City, went to high school in Prairie Village, next to Overland Park where the shootings took place, and still has a few relatives in the Midwest.

“When it hits you close to home, it hits you deeper in the heart,” Meyer said.

On Sunday afternoon, the day before the festival of Passover began, a gunman opened fire at the Jewish Community Center, killing a 14-year-old boy and his grandfather, and then at the Village Shalom retirement community, killing a 53-year-old woman, who worked as an occupational therapist.

None of the victims was Jewish.

The suspected shooter, Frazier Glenn Cross, 73, of Aurora, Mo., is a former Ku Klux Klan leader and white supremacist who was filmed yelling “Heil Hitler” out the window of a police cruiser after his arrest. The U.S. attorney plans to charge him with hate crimes.

In Marblehead yesterday, as Meyer prepared for the start of Passover, he was struggling, he said, to make sense of this latest, high-profile act of what he called “Jew hatred.”

He recalled a line said during Passover prayers.

“In every generation, there are those who rise up out of hatred to do harm to the Jewish people,” Meyer said. The term anti-Semitism is overly broad, he believes, preferring the term “Jew hatred.”

“Jew hatred has been a part of the Jewish story since the beginning of the story,” he said. At the start of the story of Moses and Passover, Pharaoh ordered all newborn Hebrew boys thrown into the Nile.

Why hatred of Jewish people and worship of Nazis continues is something of a mystery, but its continued existence diminishes us all, Meyer said.

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