April 15 marks the beginning of Passover, the Jewish commemoration of God’s liberation of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery more than 3,300 years ago. It commemorates the story of Exodus told in the Hebrew Bible.
Last night (Jewish calendar days start at sundown), many families and Jewish communities sat down together to a Seder dinner and shared the story of the Exodus, part of God’s directive in the Bible.
They did so with the knowledge that anti-Semitic violence, though overall in sharp decline, can strike unexpectedly and anywhere.
The reminder came Sunday in an Overland Park, Kan., attack that killed three people at a Jewish retirement home.
The suspect, Frazier Glenn Cross, was a relic from a time many hope the United States had left behind. The 73-year-old Vietnam War veteran from southwest Missouri founded the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in his native North Carolina and later the White Patriot Party.
Unfortunately, the part of anti-Semitism that is on the rise are the terrorist-like sudden, violent assaults like the one attributed to Cross.
These attacks can happen anywhere to anyone. None of the three victims in Sunday’s bloody attack was Jewish. They were visitors to the center, a grandfather and grandson there for a singing contest audition and a daughter visiting her mother.
At the same time we are mourning this horrible event in Kansas, we are also remembering events of a year ago, when three spectators were killed and more than 200 injured during the Boston Marathon bombing, motivated by religious zealotry.
This is a week of large — and interconnected — significance in two major religions.
The Last Supper in the Christian tradition, after all, was the Passover feast where Jesus’ followers gathered prior to his arrest, crucifixion and subsequent resurrection — the Christian Easter story. It is observed at different times each year to coordinate with Passover timing in the Hebrew month of Nisan.
Some who aren’t familiar with the Easter traditions in The Dalles might view the Last Days of Jesus as an alien way of honoring a religion’s savior.
For four days, starting Thursday, The Dalles area churches come together to re-enact the most significant event in the Christian religion. It includes a starkly violent depiction of Jesus’ suffering and death, followed by the exultant resurrection.
But it illustrates one of the best attributes of faith: the ability to come together in common cause.
Different branches of the faith work as one to recognize and recreate this common origin story. It serves as a reminder of the religion’s roots, but also of the common bonds its members hold, despite whatever philosophical differences may have caused them to separate in the first place.
In a broader sense, the Last Days of Jesus can serve as a reminder that all of us — all faiths, origins and colors — share the common bond of humanity.
At the heart of it all, we seek the same things: basic sustenance, safety and security for ourselves and our families, and to find acceptance within our community and our world.
That doesn’t seem too much to ask, and yet violent events like these chip away most certainly at our sense of security but also at our sense of belonging.