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Community Comes Together In Response To Poway Synagogue Shooting
KPBS Midday Edition / April 29, 2019
Monday's Midday Edition looks at how the local chapter of the Anti-Defamation League and the city of Poway are responding to the shooting, how prosecutors investigate and charge possible hate crimes, the history of anti-Semitism and how white supremacists are radicalizing online.
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Speaker 1: 00:00 Reaction from victims and first responders of the Habad shooting in Poway and how law enforcement prosecutes hate crimes. I'm jade Hindman. I'm Maureen Cavenaugh. This is KPBS mid day edition. It's Monday, April 29th the shock of Saturday shooting at hub out of Poway lingers Laurie Gilbert Kay, who was killed when a gunman opened fire on worshipers will be buried today. The three people injured have been released from the hospital. San Diego County sheriff. Bill Gore described how the suspect was taken into custody
Speaker 2: 00:43 as the suspect was fleeing the capital, an off duty border patrol agent. Open fire on the suspect, but apparently did not hit him but uh, struck the cars. It departed the area.
Speaker 1: 00:57 The suspected shooter. A 19 year old man from Rancho Penasquitos was arrested by CHP and San Diego police. Meanwhile, members of hope od vowed to move on despite their grief. KPBS reporter Steve Walsh hurts some of their stories.
Speaker 3: 01:13 Bye Bye. Yours Real Goldstein emerged Sunday from Habana Poway. After being released from the hospital, the rabbi had lost his index finger when he was shot by a gunman Saturday, both hands bandage. He recounted turning to see the gunman the morning of Passover services.
Speaker 4: 01:29 There is a young man standing with a rifle.
Speaker 5: 01:34 Yeah,
Speaker 4: 01:34 pointing right at me and I looked at him. He had sunglasses on. I couldn't see his eyes. I couldn't see his soul. I froze
Speaker 3: 01:45 that moment. Members of the congregation say 60 year old Lori Kay stepped in front of the gunmen and was killed leaving the rabbi only injured.
Speaker 4: 01:54 I will never forget yesterday my missing finger, well forever scar me physically what its scope to remind me how vulnerable we are and also how he ROIC. Each one of us can be
Speaker 3: 02:10 19 year old John Ernest was arrested after fleeing the scene. He remains in custody. The mayor of Poway called it a hate crime to other people were wounded, including an eight year old. Many members of the congregation live within a few blocks of the synagogue. Ronita [inaudible], one of the founding members stood outside the rabbi's son's home. She was a friend of the woman who was killed.
Speaker 6: 02:33 Me and my family and our community and anybody who has ever known her. I just blessed for for knowing her.
Speaker 3: 02:39 That says, much of the congregation is still in shock.
Speaker 6: 02:42 We're not surprised by acts of hate. We, we know that we were a target by being Jewish. It doesn't stop us and it will continue to stop us. We'll continue or, but it's more than how bout of power. This is affecting every synagogue in the United States affecting every synagogue in the planet.
Speaker 3: 03:01 Other members gathered in the front yard away from the throngs of media assembled across the street from nearby Habbat of Poway. Oscar Stewart had been inside this into God with his wife and stepdaughter, a veteran of both the navy and the army steward confronted the gunman. Normally he sits in the front.
Speaker 7: 03:19 That's why I say this is God's had because I got up cause I was standing in the back and then I heard the gunshot and I ran into the lobby and as soon as I saw I saw him and he fired two more rounds and I charged him at that point and I yelled at that point and he, when he saw me, he dropped his weapon. He turned and ran.
Speaker 3: 03:37 Eventually a member of the congregation who is a border patrol agent in the El Centro district, ran out of the temple and began firing at the suspect.
Speaker 7: 03:46 One of the things that moved me was that we went as soon as we were there, there's an Orthodox church right next door and they opened their doors immediately. Even though there was an active shooter, they opened their doors to our members immediately. So I think we're just going to be stronger and you know, I'm gonna make a tighter bond. When the community
Speaker 3: 04:03 at 2:00 PM today, Rabbi Goldstein will preside over the funeral of the woman who died. He says, Lori Kay's funeral will be the most difficult day of his career. Steve Walsh Kpbs News,
Speaker 6: 04:15 and as you just heard in that report from Steve Walsh, the shooting is being investigated as a possible hate crime. The Anti Defamation League is putting out a call to action now for the community to stand together against hate and antisemitism. Here's my conversation with the regional director. Earlier you met with the victim's families over the weekend. What did they tell you? Um, it was victim's families. It was witnesses. And uh, it was really something that in my 12 years of doing this work I hadn't ever experienced before to hear children talk about a man coming into their synagogue and shooting. It's just horrific. And because it was the Jewish sabbath, these folks were not able to use their cell phones and call their family members and friends. So I was able to do that for them and tell their families and their friends that they were safe. And having to do that is really, um, listening.
Speaker 6: 05:13 It's, it's heartbreaking, but our community is going through this. A visual is being held tonight at Poway high school. This follows to vigils that happened over the weekend. Um, what do you hope people take away from these vigils? We hope people come away with a sense of community. Tonight's vigil is really about bringing all faith communities together, all of the diverse communities that we have in San Diego coming together to support each other. To say that really San Diego Poway this community is no place for hate. And how do you hope people respond in light of this tragedy? I hope that we can really understand that words matter, that what you say to somebody, the way you treat somebody, it matters. We're, we're in a place in this country where the rhetoric has just really divided us and we need to come together. It has to be grassroots.
Speaker 6: 06:09 We must come together. And you know, earlier this month the Adl held a conference with law enforcement about the rise in white supremacist, extremist, uh, activity. Uh, what are you all seeing nationally and what do you hear seeing here in San Diego, right? We have seen this trending up for the past several years. In fact, stay tuned. Tomorrow, Adl, we'll be releasing our annual audit of antisemetic events. And while I can't give you the numbers, I can tell you that the numbers are not good. This has been trending up for several years and you know, I know in a presentation it was mentioned that, you know, 70% of the extremist related killings in the United States over the past 15 years and 100% in 2018, uh, were perpetrated by individuals aligned with white supremacist extremism. Do people have a good context or perception of what's really happening in this country? I don't think so.
Speaker 6: 07:05 And um, one of the things that Adl would like is to call upon the administration, uh, to do some funding for countering violent extremism and looking at these trends and white supremacists. And really the focus has been on countering Islamic extremism. And we need to go back to countering extremism of all types, especially in light of what the data shows. And why do you think we're seeing this increase in violence from these groups? Well, going back to the rhetoric, there's an anger in our country right now, a divisiveness and it is spread on the Internet even after what happened in Poway, we at the Adl have received threats, hate emails. There are people that are celebrating what happened at the Poway shooting and it is spread and we've got to put a stop to that. And we do need to hold tech companies accountable. So we don't want to step on anybody's first amendment rights, obviously where the Adl, we care about First Amendment rights, but spreading hate and inciting hate is a whole different thing.
Speaker 6: 08:13 And you mentioned holding tech companies accountable. Uh, you know, is that the way this, these messages are being spread through social media? It really is. You know, we used to talk about hate groups and how they gather and when they have rallies and that kind of thing, but you no longer have to do that. You don't have to go somewhere to find hate. It comes right to you on your computer. And this is how people are really becoming radicalized and becoming extremists just in their own rooms at home. And what can individuals do to stop and combat extremism and terrorism? I think that they need to talk to their elected officials. There are things that the government needs to do to help from their putting resources behind this. And I think communities like doing what we're doing tonight, coming together as a community. Uh, May 19th, Adl holds our annual walk against hate coming out to stand up to this being a voice.
Speaker 6: 09:10 And we're asking everyone from the president of the United States to the president of your local school board, use your bully pulpit to stand up against hate. And in response to this shooting, how is the Adl encouraging synagogues to respond? You know, synagogues and Jewish institutions have had guards and security as a priority for many years. This is not new to us. We are trying to work with all of our Jewish institutions to find that balance between being welcoming and having a secure facility for your congregants. I've been speaking with Anti Defamation League regional director, Tammy Gillies. Tammy, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you. Yes.
Speaker 8: 09:56 And tonight's vigil, we'll begin at 6:30 PM at Poway High School Stadium. Attendees are advised to wear blue in solidarity with the Jewish community and there have been vigils every night since this tragedy took place. Drawing community members and leaders from several faiths, Jewish, Christian and Muslim report or Max Rivlin Nadler reports. The alleged shooter had claimed responsibility for a fire. At a mosque last month and neighboring Escondido east of San Diego,
Speaker 9: 10:33 19 year old Tiara Miller is Muslim and from Escondido, she felt the need to come to the vigil to support another religious group facing hate after her own community with targeted by an arsonist in March.
Speaker 10: 10:45 We know what it's like to be attacked for our belief or being part of a community. So the perpetrator, for some reason, they think, oh, you know, if I do this, everybody's gonna be separate. Yeah, they're not. They're going to hate each other, but it's like, no, we love each other. Yeah.
Speaker 9: 10:59 The alleged shooter posted online before the incident that he was going to do it and provided a link for live stream of the shooting. He said that he drew inspiration from the attacks at the tree of life synagogue in Pittsburgh and the massacre of a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand Saturday was the six month anniversary of the tree of life shooting in which 11 people were killed by a gunman spouting white supremacist ideology. Congregates at the Habad synagogue reported the alleged shooter also yelled antisemitic slurs. I'm Max Rivlin Adler in Poway.
Speaker 5: 11:33 Okay.
Speaker 8: 11:43 This is KPBS midday edition. I'm jade Hindman. I'm Maureen Cavenaugh and online statement describing acts of hate against Jews and Muslims has been officially linked
Speaker 1: 11:53 to the suspected Poway synagogue shooter, but authorities say they are examining the statement as part of the investigation. The statement expresses hatred for Jews, describes the decision to attack the Habbat of Poway and makes the claim that the writer of the online statement also set fire to a mosque last month in Escondido 19 year old John Earnest of Rancho Penasquitos is in custody facing charges of murder and attempted murder for the synagogue shooting. And joining me is San Diego County district attorney Summer Steph in summer. Welcome to the program. Thank you. I understand that since the investigation is ongoing that you can to talk about the particular circumstances of the Habad shooting. But generally speaking, how important are online statements and social media when it comes to putting a case together?
Speaker 11: 12:42 When we're looking at a homicide case, we are always looking for what motivated it, what's the intent and uh, we are looking at all possible charges. Some of the charges that you have to look at when any place of worship is targeted, uh, is to look at whether you have a hate crime or a hate crimes allegation in general. In every case where you have a targeted place of worship, you're looking at online communications, things that are said at the scene before or after any sort of written or social media statements because the law requires that the crime, no matter how horrific it is, it's not enough the crime itself to add a hate crimes, uh, allegation. You have to look at whether there is evidence that that crime was in whole or in part motivated by a bias, a hatred, if you will, against a religion against a race, ethnicity, disability or sexual orientation.
Speaker 1: 13:58 Is it difficult to link a suspect definitively to an online profile or online statements
Speaker 11: 14:05 in we have a very sophisticated collaborative catch team in San Diego County with, uh, people who specialize in linking any type of social media, any type of tablet, phone, a device, communication to the particular person that may have made that statement. So commonly in an m, any investigation that involves any type of online, uh, statements, the catch team and other teams. It's a combined team of FBI. It's a led by my office, a team leader at the district attorney's office. They are looking to link any statement to its source.
Speaker 1: 14:53 Does local law enforcement monitor the social media of let's say high hate groups or sites like eight Chan where people are known to post about hate crime activity?
Speaker 11: 15:04 Yeah. San Diego County has a very active hate crimes intelligence committee, which the DA's office, the sheriff, FBI, the Adl and many other agencies are a part of. And part of the reason for the existence of both the regional hate crimes coalition and the hate crimes intelligence committee is to make sure that we are aware of all, uh, groups, uh, all communications, anything that might incite violence or hatred. So that is definitely monitored. But truth be said, it really is the everyday citizens that are the best stores. It's what they see when they see something that sounds like a hatred, like a bias. It cannot be ignored because we know throughout history that speech is a quick pathway to violent action and while speech itself may be protected, the violent action that it may bring is not. And so it allows at least a lead towards investigation.
Speaker 1: 16:20 If law enforcement becomes aware of online threats, what can you do about it?
Speaker 11: 16:26 When law enforcement becomes aware of it, we follow a very extensive protocol. You look at, uh, we developed, uh, threats protocol a while back and it's a, it's a very good model. We look at immediately once we see things that are threatening online, we track it to its source. We look at whether there are other linked statements of threats of violence. Uh, we then look at whether there is a prior criminal history, whether there is, um, acting out that has gone on. We look at whether there's been commitments, mental health commitments. One of the big things we look at is whether they've obtained or tried to obtain weapons recently. So it triggers amongst other things that I can't discuss. It triggers a whole protocol and investigative techniques that are employed
Speaker 1: 17:26 is San Diego county seeing an increase in hate crimes or hate incidents
Speaker 11: 17:32 in the last four years, San Diego County has seen an increase of 40%, uh, in hate crimes. Uh, now what we cannot say for certain is whether the hate crimes have in fact increased in Diego County or whether the, um, advanced that, the efforts that are being made to make sure that communities that are usually targeted feel comfortable to report and know that someone is going to listen to them and take action. It's difficult to determine, but I know that my office has doubled the number of filings of crimes with a hate crime violation in the last two years. And that, uh, actually in the last year and a half, so 2018 has doubled our hate crimes filings and we have tripled the convictions of a crime with an associated hate crimes enhancement or violation. So, uh, that's going on. But we also know that nationally, although the FBI has not reported numbers since 2017, we definitely see a 40% increase nationally in hate crimes. They're looking at tiers of 2015, 2016 and 2017. We see that, uh, for example, crimes, um, that are, uh, against, uh, the Jewish community have gone up from 695 in 2015 national need to 976 incidents in 2017.
Speaker 1: 19:23 I've been speaking with San Diego County district attorney summer. Stephan, thank you very much for your time.
Speaker 11: 19:30 You're welcome.
Speaker 1: 19:32 This is not who Poway is. That reaction from Mayor Steve Oss on the Habbat shooting has been quoted in media outlets across the nation. Mayor Vos continues to field reaction to the shooting and he joins us now may or Voss. Welcome to the program. Thank you. I believe you recently had a phone conversation with Israeli officials about the shooting. Can you tell us about that?
Speaker 12: 19:54 No, just in the last 30 minutes, uh, the Israeli ambassador to the United States called and wanted to express his appreciation for my strong stand against the antisemitism and hatred in all forms. And uh, I, I can't imagine living any other way.
Speaker 1: 20:14 Can you describe the way the Poway residents are reacting to Saturday shooting?
Speaker 12: 20:20 How is so remarkable. Um, you know, as you mentioned in, in the first, uh, press availability on, on Saturday, I think it was, I said, this is not Poway. Uh, last night we saw the real Poway last night we had thousands of people turn out to a park with two hours notice with candles and we sang songs and we put her arms around one another and we came together, uh, with love and a desire to, to lift up our, our friends, our brothers and sisters, her bottom Poway and just come together. That's who we are.
Speaker 1: 20:57 Was the city of Poway aware of any security concerns that, that how bad had prior to the shooting
Speaker 12: 21:03 after the tree of life master current Pittsburgh? Uh, six months in, two days ago, uh, I, along with our sheriff's department team, uh, met with Habana Poway as we did with other houses of worship. In this particular instance, we remembered the victims of the Pittsburgh massacre and we talked about safety steps that all congregants should be aware of. And then someone's later, roughly about two months ago, oh, rabbi Goldstein participated in an active shooter drill at City Hall. I have no doubt in my mind that the proactive stance that our sheriff's department took months in advance saved lives yesterday or two days ago.
Speaker 1: 21:44 As you ruminate over what happened on Saturday, as I'm sure you have, your mind goes back to that and think, is there anything that you think that could have been done that wasn't done in order to either stop this faster, although it was stopped rather quickly, uh, or prevented in entirely
Speaker 12: 22:07 hatred and heartbreak and been around the world from the beginning of time. And we're never going to be able to stop it completely. Yeah. I'm spending my time being thankful for the Sheroes and angels that active inside that sanctuary and same foot hole, those that risk their own lives to whisk children out of the space that covered other folks, uh, with their own bodies, risking their lives and the, the courage and fortitude of Rabbi Goldstein, uh, and even what his fingers shot off and bleeding, uh, walking out and climbing up on a chair and exhorting his congregants after the government had run off a, exhorting them that they would never surrender and they would stand together. That's what I focus on.
Speaker 1: 22:56 Hey Ross, I have to ask you this. You know, you're a longtime musician and songwriter as well as in San Diego as well as the mayor of Poway and you had a success a few years ago with an anti gun control song you wrote called common take it. I wonder after this shooting, if you see the gun control issue any differently.
Speaker 12: 23:17 No, I'm not thinking about really your or interested in talking about the gun control issue. However, I will point out that it was a private citizen with a weapon that probably had the most impact on getting that shooter out of there and saving lives. And I'll leave it at that.
Speaker 1: 23:33 What events are being planned to bring the community together after this tragedy?
Speaker 12: 23:38 There is another vigil, uh, that's coming tonight at six 30 at [inaudible] high school. I've heard there are other vigils coming up this week at San Diego state and elsewhere. Uh, we appreciate all the loving on everybody. Uh, the entire region is laying out there for us and uh, we just, as I said earlier, continue to want to put our arms around our brothers and sisters at the hub, Otto Poway and lift them up and carry them through this darkness.
Speaker 8: 24:06 What messages, if any, do you have for people in San Diego who are shaken to the core as something like this happened in our community to the Habad? Um, well, do you use, do you have any, any words of wisdom or constellation
Speaker 12: 24:24 only that we should always almost stand together. You know, it's kind of a twisted irony. It's just a week before this. We had an interface of it in Poway were folks from virtually every faith tradition got together and it was all to look for common ground and to build bridges and tear down barriers and even with all that groundwork that we laid in Poway hate and heartbreak can still come and break down the door. We just have to be ready to stand against it and fight the darkness with light.
Speaker 8: 25:00 I've been speaking with Poway mayor, Steve Voss and Mayor Voss. Thank you very much.
Speaker 12: 25:04 Thank you.
Speaker 8: 25:06 And in light of recent acts of terroristic violence rooted in white supremacy, the southern poverty law center is highlighting the link between the violence and how the Internet is being used as a vehicle to radicalize extremist. Heidi by Rick is the director of southern poverty law center's intelligence project, which publishes the intelligence report and the hate watch blog. Heidi, welcome. Thanks for having me. Now you won't believe the shooting at the Habbat of Poway underscore is a link between online radicalization of white supremacist and terroristic violence. What is that link?
Speaker 13: 25:40 Yeah, well if you read the manifesto that the alleged assailant roach, um, in relationship to this latest attack, he references a whole lot of online materials where he gained his ideas from. It's very clear that he was steeped in a racist, antisemitic Internet culture and that through reading these materials he came to the position that he needed to kill Jews, the horrible position and that's what motivated this attack. That and that is a classic example of online radicalization
Speaker 8: 26:12 and you know, law enforcement has not officially linked statements made online to the Poway synagogue shooter but you all have I, how confident are you that the suspect and the Poway synagogue shooting made those statements?
Speaker 13: 26:24 We're absolutely con confident that he made those statements that that is his work product and that the other crime that he confesses to related to a mosque attack about a month ago is also something that can be laid at his feet. And I, I'll also say that the manifest to itself shows that he was heavily influenced by the killer in Christchurch, New Zealand who also had been online radicalized and learn to hate Muslims in that case because of what he was reading, uh, on the web. And that guy was seen as a, as a hero to this particular shooter. So we have a sort of copycat situation here and we also have online radicalization in both those cases, in many other acts of mass violence we've seen of late.
Speaker 8: 27:10 And this statement was posted on a fringe social media site. Tell us about that site and others like it.
Speaker 13: 27:17 Yeah, well there's a whole world I'm often referred to as the chance four Chan and eight Chan that are filled with sections of hatred that is almost hard for people to comprehend. And this is the kind of forum that this person, Ernest was involved in a, and there are literally thousands and thousands and thousands of young men active on those sites reading that same material. Uh, and nowadays it's the chance and places like Gab, which is another relatively unregulated Internet forum, those are the places where people are learning to hate. As we watched the tech companies, places like Facebook take more and more white supremacist propaganda down.
Speaker 8: 27:57 And what does the southern poverty law center advocate for in regards to all of these sites?
Speaker 13: 28:02 Well, we have a set of model policies for Internet companies that we developed, uh, in a coalition called change the terms along with other civil rights organizations. And our basic policies are around removing hateful activity and propaganda both from platforms like Facebook, but also from access to things like paypal and payment processors and our purpose and calling for this, which most of the major platforms agreed to do now, although they're not always effective in carrying it out. The reason for this is that we're seeing a rising tide of violence from white supremacists, from people with ideas around white supremacy, and they're being learned on the Internet. And we have to stop that PR, that process. What's interesting about this is the u s federal government, international governments, um, the tech companies have done this with propaganda coming from groups like Isis, right? Which has had deadly consequences as well there. They've been very serious about removing that content, but we haven't seen the same treatment of white supremacist ideas.
Speaker 8: 29:03 And you know, I wanted to dig into some of these ideas that are on these websites. You know, you point to the white genocide conspiracy as a false idea that's radicalized extremists. Talk to me about how that conspiracy is being spread and how it's making it's way off of the Internet.
Speaker 13: 29:21 Right? So the white genocide idea is probably the most powerful and most disseminated type of propaganda from white supremacists today. They are under the belief that there is a conspiracy, usually they believe led by Jews to import non white people, immigrants essentially into the United States, European countries to dilute the number of whites and take away their power. In fact, it's viewed as a worldwide antisemitic conspiracy that needs to be fought back against both. Um, the shooting in New Zealand, the shooting in Poway, both of those people were a steeped in white genocide as was the man who committed an act of mass murder at the tree of life synagogue in Pittsburgh, um, you know, six months ago. So this, this idea is powerful because when you say that your people are being genocided gives you a legitimate reason to take up arms and fight back, it's of course a false notion.
Speaker 13: 30:20 And you know, people are are all the same. It's not like this is actually happening, but this has become the main motivating propaganda for violence coming out of white supremacists circles. I'll say this as well. Dylan roof, the man who shot so many people at the Ame church in Charleston was motivated by the second most popular piece of propaganda, which is what's called black on white crime. The idea that black people are literally slaughtering whites in western countries and therefore they need to be killed. And another thing linked to radicalize white supremacist is this admiration of similar crimes. What can be done to combat that? I mean, once again, the big solution here, the only place where we can get a handle on this is on mainstream platforms because things like four Chan and hn are unfortunately outside the reach of regulation. Law enforcement should be watching them.
Speaker 13: 31:10 They're essentially dens of Lone wolfs where these people are operating. They should be paying very close attention to those places, but there's nobody to sort of appeal to, to remove that material from those particular kinds of sites. And that's what I was going to ask. I mean, you know, what about surveillance on these sites are enough resources from state, local and federal agencies being used to combat white supremacists tear, uh, that that's, that grows from these sites? Well, unfortunately our whole way of dealing with terrorism since nine 11 has been to focus on radical Islam and not on white supremacy. It's not even clear how many FBI agents are devoted to this, how much time they spend on these sites looking for people who might commit acts of violence. It's completely unclear what resources are devoted to this. And there's a second problem as well, which became clear after New Zealand, which is that there is no understanding among the international intelligence community that this is an international terrorist threat.
Speaker 13: 32:06 Just like Isis. People who are involved in white supremacy in the United States don't consider themselves to just be domestically oriented. They are tied to white supremacists in Europe, white supremacists in New Zealand. It's an international network and there's no capability at this point on the part of foreign intelligence agencies to even deal with this threat. They don't know anything about it and they don't frame it in that way. So we're basically falling down on the job when it comes to watching these sites and trying to protect the public, whether in the United States or elsewhere from this growing threat. And it is growing. More and more of these attacks are happening. And how concerning is that to you? A recent numbers show that 70% of the extremist related killings in the United States over the past 15 years and 100% in 2018 were perpetrated by individuals aligned with white supremacist extremism.
Speaker 13: 32:56 And yet we were not clear on how many resources are being put to combat that. Well, you know, I think one of the things that needs to happen and then there is going to be a hearing in the house in May at which FBI and DOJ and other officials are showing up. One thing that needs to be found out is exactly how many resources are being used and if that is adequate and being done in the correct manner. The other thing that needs to happen is they're simply needs to be a sea change to understand that the biggest threat that we have both in terms of domestic terrorism and a significant factor in international terrorism, not to discount isis is white supremacy and people involved in these agencies don't know how this system works, how it's interconnected and you know, I have to say the other thing about this is this is a threat that's not going away.
Speaker 13: 33:43 These people are motivated by demographic change in traditionally white countries like the United States, that demographic change isn't going to stop. So they are going to become increasingly enraged as our society's become more diverse. And, and white supremacy is indigenous to our society in a way that isis is ideas or not. We were founded on white supremacy. The country was run that way through slavery, through Jim Crow. So given that it's indigenous, it's not going anywhere and we need to think about addressing it, not just from a law enforcement perspective, but perhaps from an education perspective. It's a whole area that just has been ignored and not looked at and we need to be looking at it like immediately. I've been speaking with high, you buy rec, director of southern poverty law center's intelligence project. How do you, thank you so much for joining us. Thanks for having me.
Speaker 14: 34:41 Yeah,
Speaker 13: 34:41 this is KPBS mid day edition. I'm jade Hindman. I'm Maureen Cavenaugh,
Speaker 1: 34:46 the increase in violence against Jews in America. How shocked and horrified the nation. But antisemitic violence has a long sad history. One that Rabbi Scott Meltzer has studied extensively. In a sad coincidence, the rabbi was already scheduled to speak at San Diego State University today to discuss modern antisemitism in the post Holocaust world. He has identified many of the tropes and conspiracy theories that fuel hatred and fear against Jews in our time. Joining me as rabbi Scott Malsr of or Shalom synagogue in San Diego and rabbi mounts are welcome to the program.
Speaker 15: 35:22 Thank you very much. Very sorry for the, for the context and, and what not, but very excited for the invitation. Thank you.
Speaker 1: 35:28 No. First, in light of your studies on antisemitism, what's your reaction to the shooting and power?
Speaker 15: 35:36 The first reaction is that it's tragic and it's tragic for the families, most immediately involved for Lori Case family that, uh, that now suffer this loss totally senseless and totally hate filled. Uh, and for those families, for, for the child who was injured and for all those who were injured and that those were interested ever speedily and complete recovery a second. It's, it's the feeling of pain for the community beginning that the Habad in Poway but to the entire Jewish community. And I think maybe more globally for all of us in San Diego, there's a sense literally that, uh, that not only have the, uh, the haters bullets shattered our sense of sanctuary. But they've done it here in San Diego and uh, and it's too close to home. It's too close to home as a, as a Jew, as a San Diegan, as a rabbi, as a parent. Um, and uh, and we're reeling in the number of people who stand up and are both standing with us and crying with us. I think as a statement, one of the sense of community and larger San Diego in a statement that the, the, the antisemites don't only hate Jews put it, uh, but their hate reaches more broadly. And we really do need to all stand together in the face of, uh, of hatred in the face of white supremacy and, uh, and morning together and then also protect each other.
Speaker 1: 37:02 You study these things. So let me ask you, what are the conspiracy theories that are fueling this modern day wave of antisemitism?
Speaker 15: 37:12 Well, that's the most frightening part because some of the assumptions in the comments go all the way up to the highest levels of, uh, of who we are as a society and even to our elected officials. We recently had a, a, a member of Congress who in a national interview question, why is it not okay to be a white nationalist? And I thought, I don't, I just don't understand, um, their common thoughts to, uh, to conspiracy theories among antisemites and others. It's at somebody else controls the world. If there's a secret cabal, a secret group of, of evil minded ill intended people that a, the control the banks, they control Hollywood, they control the u s government, they control the international world. And uh, an inherent in that is a sense that, and therefore they are to blame with why my life isn't good or why somebody else has something that I don't have or why I have pain and struggle and fear. And it's a, sadly, it's a, it's a response that we're supposed to overcome as we mature into independent adults and learn that other people aren't to blame and we should have enough intelligence and education to, uh, to understand that there is not a secret society pulling the strings in dictating all of the terrible things that are happening. What are these
Speaker 1: 38:35 modern stereotypes and conspiracies related to the old ones? It sounds like a lot of the same old stuff.
Speaker 15: 38:42 It's, it's the same old stuff with the, where they play differently is, um, is in the way that they're able to be shared. So there are two differences. One is over the last decade of the real increased of digital social media that a, that there are likeminded people who used to have to meet in secret and they used to only be a handful of pocket here in a pocket there. And now there's a very large international community that's able to get together to meet up in a digital medium and a in that has amplified their voice. Um, but it's the same trough. It's the same sense that there is a conspiracy of other people that are oppressing me. You know, we heard it in Charlottesville in the, in the statement trying to preserve some kind of racist vision of the past first that you will not replace us and then the Jews will not replace us. This idea that, uh, that there is a European descended white culture that is being threatened now because America does not look like that white face that was able to oppress all minority voices, uh, even to the point of slavery and lynchings for many years in our history. And there are people who are very threatened by the idea of America were truly everybody is created equal.
Speaker 1: 40:01 You break down the history of antisemitism in a number of different ways. And one of the things that you identify is social antisemitism at the kind of thing that people might encounter on a day to day basis. People who have no desire, no intention of ever committing an act of violence, and yet their speech is an act of violence. Tell us about that.
Speaker 15: 40:27 Yeah. And had you invited me on your show three or four years ago, we could have done a wonderful segment purely on that have spoken and unspoken microaggressions of antisemitism. Uh, when people assume you're Jewish, of course you're rich, right? Or, you know, the, the idea that my children inherently have everything they want and are spoiled kind of that, you know, ugly. But the classic Jewish American princess stereotype, um, with, you know, it comes up even in places sometimes it make me chuckle, but it's part of the same thinking about Jews is somebody will say, you, you Jewish. You know, I have cousins who are Jewish and Seattle as if, you know, I would know a Jew in Seattle, which is funny. You know, the interesting thing about the, the microaggressions and the assumptions about Jews is some of them are funny, some of them are complimentary, right? My, my daughter, one of my daughters, is it a place where people are surprised that she works very, very hard in math because she's Jewish. She should just be good at math. And they, thankfully, she worked really, really hard in math. But, um, Eh, and truthfully, people who have stereotyped, uh, ideas about Jews, I'd much rather they have them in complimentary in loving ways, but it's still antisemitic. It's still is stereotyping the entire group around an image.
Speaker 1: 41:48 Are you baffled as to why these stereotypes persist?
Speaker 15: 41:51 No, I'm not at all. I think that I am, I sit on the side that amazed at how progressive our society is. That is how far we have come from the beginnings of human society 10,000 years ago to the beginning of European settlement on this continent, you know, 400 years ago to the development of our nation a little over 200 years ago. And I look at even in the last 50 years in my lifetime, the incredible expansion of our understanding of, of humanity and the expansion of human rights and civil rights. And we have a long way to go. So this isn't a pollyannish statement, but you know, I lived in a world where it was, I'm sorry, I was born in a world where it was totally socially acceptable to discriminate, right? If you were Jewish, you couldn't own a home in a certain area.
Speaker 15: 42:41 If you were an African American that it was okay that somebody won't hire you or wouldn't rent to you or wanted to give you a loan based purely on the color of your skin. If you were a woman, you were really weighed down on the totem pole as it related to hiring and payment and being protected against violence. And now the truth is, in my lifetime, in the 50 years I've been here, there's been incredible change. And with that change has come an awareness of it's unacceptable that we're not finished with it. It's unacceptable that there's still racism, the distal antisemitism, that there's still a sexist assumptions, that there's still discrimination in a whole variety of places. Um, but that discrimination story is the story of human history. And so I sit on the side that I actually think with the increase in awareness of what we should look like as a society, that we are on the cusp of a just a beautiful proliferation of rights and protections for all people.
Speaker 15: 43:37 And I think part of why we're seeing this more vocal, more public and more violent, a white supremacy linked to antisemitism and racism and sexism, um, in the anti immigrant experience and, uh, is exactly because the, the way the world was is morally unacceptable and we will not tolerate it. And as we move closer and closer to really living out that dream for everybody, the people who feel most connected to it are most threatened by the change and are becoming vocal and violent. And it's not pretty, and it's not going to get better before he gets worse. But I think it's a reflection of a, of all of the successes that need to be celebrated as we continue to March and speak and teach and rally and stand together to make sure that the full vision and that nobody is left out.
Speaker 1: 44:28 I've been speaking with Sdsu lecturer, rabbi Scott Meltzer of, or Shalom synagogue in San Diego. Rabbi Meltzer. Thank you.
Speaker 15: 44:36 Uh, truly a pleasure to be here. Thank you for all the, you do. Okay.