Rabbi Dr. Michael Leo SamuelCHULA VISTA, California — Chula Vista community leaders came out on Tuesday, Nov. 4, to address the problem of anti-Semitic and anti-LGBT graffiti that was written across the Bonita Vista High School building over the Halloween holiday this past week.
Although Councilmember Steven Padilla pointed out that graffiti, in general, is not an unusual incident when it comes to Halloween. However, this year, the Chula Vista community must stand together in complete solidarity and condemn this kind of hateful activity, he said. Our community must declare that hatred and intolerance cannot be tolerated.
Many other representatives and community leaders were present. The names included: San Diego County Supervisor Nora Vargas; Sweetwater Union High School Board President Nicholas Segura; Chula Vista Mayor Salas, Sweetwater Union High School Board Trustee Dr. Adrian Arancibia; Rabbi Devorah Marcus, President of the San Diego Board of Rabbis; Fernando Lopez (they/them), Executive Director of San Diego Pride; Andrea Beth Damsky, Co-Chair of the DevOUT LGBTQ+ Interfaith Coalition, and me in my capacity as rabbi of Temple Beth Shalom.
Many of the speakers reminded us that White Supremacy has a history in the San Diego area, as it does in many other parts of the country. The speeches were passionate and moving.
What surprised most of us, if not all of us, was the huge number of people who came together and spoke in one strong voice. In my speech, I mentioned that education could no longer be value-free. The time has come for us to start teaching ethics, beginning with pre-school and continuing through grade school, high school, and college. Encouraging local religious leaders and Holocaust survivors to come and relate their stories is a powerful way of addressing the problems and challenges that we face in our name.
Coouncilman Padilla proposed creating symposiums to bring many of our community leaders together to address the community.
Some of the speakers even tried reaching out to the hate crime perpetrators, hoping that they might change if they realized how much they hurt our community and its reputation.
And while we will not most likely eliminate hatred of the Other, we can take meaningful steps to minimize the threats hate-groups pose to our young people. In the question and answer period that followed, Sandy Scheller mentioned the Project Ruth exhibit being held at the Chula Vista Library and Heritage Museum located at 366 F. St., in Chula Vista. Scheller encouraged all the local schools—including Bonita Vista High School- to visit the museum, which has drawn large crowds from throughout San Diego County.
I plan to encourage the Mayor and the councilmembers that we need to make this museum a permanent part of our community. As it is, the exhibit is due to expire in August 2022. The community needs it–and it plays a vital role in our little South Bay community.
On the subject of Holocaust education, I mentioned that my father, Leo Samuel, a Holocaust survivor, used to visit high schools and colleges. My Aunt Miriam, who died two years ago, used to lecture students back in the 1950s before Holocaust awareness and education existed.
In short, every crisis ought to be seen as an opportunity for growth and enlightenment. We must be optimistic that we can make a difference, but we must be vigilant in preventing hatred from manifesting its ugly presence.
No community is immune.
All in all, it is my hope a lot of good will come out of this. In the end, there is no growth without pain.
Rabbi Dr. Michael Leo Samuel may be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org