Imagine going to a holiday fair at your church, kids' school or community center. You're hoping to buy a few stocking stuffers or gifts. As you leave your car in anticipation of finding treasures and treats, some nutbag in a car points a handgun at you. Happy freakin' holidays!—not. This recently happened at the IJ & Jeanné Wagner Jewish Community Center during its annual Hanukkah Market.
The Jewish community certainly isn't new to threats. According to CNN, bomb threats made against Jewish centers across the U.S. topped 100 in just the first few months of 2017. The most publicized were by a 19-year-old Israel-American man who was arrested in Israel this past March for threatening dozens of institutions around the world.
Jews in Utah have a rich history across the state. Alexander Neibaur, a trained rabbi and dentist who converted to Mormonism, taught Joseph Smith Hebrew and German and joined him in his trek to Utah. Jews came West and joined wagon trains heading to the gold fields of California or continued toward other destinations. In 1865, an article in The Hebrew stated there were 20 Jewish men and two families living in Salt Lake City. Famous Jews of Utah past include Charles Popper, who organized Utah's Order of Odd Fellows, and who owned a stockyard in the Avenues where Popperton Park is now. The Auerbach brothers were helped by Brigham Young in establishing a mercantile store in downtown Salt Lake. Miner Jacob Bamberger built railroads, Lagoon Amusement Park and served as governor. Jacob Moritz founded the Salt Lake Brewing Company. Railroad man and copper miner Samuel Newhouse built Utah's first skyscrapers and New York City's famous Flatiron building. Candy makers Leon and Arthur Sweet got a government contract to supply troops with candy in WWI and WWII. Izzy Wagner's family was a successful manufacturer of bags (Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center is named for his mom).
It seems everywhere around us, hate is up. Antisemitism is on the rise and so is Islamophobia. On average, nine mosques per month were targeted in the first half of the year, according to the cable news channel. It's currently Hanukkah, where Jews celebrate a miracle for eight consecutive nights. You don't have to be Jewish to celebrate miracles, though. So maybe we could all join together and create miracles of peace and kindness this season that will last into 2018. Shalom!