Let’s do a mitzvah every day

Some choosing to stay positive, as local community continues to process Pittsburgh shooting, which left 11 dead in late October.

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In the same weekend that a deadly shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh rocked the Jewish community nationwide, individuals in the Long Beach area were coming together to train and become part of a new program called Real Resiliency.

“This is all of our work to do,” Kimmy Maniquis, executive director of California Conference for Equality and Justice (CCEJ) told the Signal Tribune Monday. “We feel like we keep encountering these types of tragedies far too often for marginalized communities, whether it’s the Jewish community, the LGBTQ community, the black community and immigrants– every community right now that is pretty vulnerable.”

Maniquis said CCEJ recently launched the Real Resiliency program to provide educational models for young people to gain skills like building empathy and social-emotional learning and to learn about social justice. She said training new volunteers during that weekend in this type of community-building work was reassuring that there is a stable commitment to CCEJ’s continued efforts to build bridges across all communities.

“I think we are just very fatigued by policies, and violence that isn’t physical violence that results in death, but violence in a way that tries to erase people, that discounts people’s experiences, like everything that’s happening with immigrants right now,” Maniquis said. “To see that elders in the Jewish community have been taken so violently felt like this culminating violent act around months of tragic news that just keeps coming in.”

She said the training is typically very time-intensive and requires lots of personal reflection and growth from the participants.

“Being able to witness some of [the participants’] process was really, for our staff, reassuring,” Maniquis said. “That weekend was really sad, and when we came back together on Monday, it was like we laid the cards out in front of us and tried to be in community together.”

The Long Beach community came together the Tuesday following the shooting at a memorial service at the Alpert Jewish Community Center (AJCC), where speakers included Jewish Congressman Alan Lowenthal, who represents Long Beach and Signal Hill. He also addressed the shooting in a written statement:
“I am a proud Jew. I won’t be intimidated by the anti-Semitic attacks on members of our community. We are resilient, we are strong, and we are unafraid. As we mourn our brothers and sisters in Pittsburgh, join me in pledging to fight back against hatred wherever we find it.”

AJCC Executive Director Jeffrey Rips told the Signal Tribune that he doesn’t think there is a clear “collective decision” at this point for how community organizations are going to move forward in the wake of the Pittsburgh events, but he thinks a lot of individualized reflection is happening during this time.

“It’s a time for people to think individually and perhaps collectively on, ‘What can I do to make the world a better place?’ Rips said. “I think encouraging and promoting our individuals to make sure they are doing that is clearly happening.”

Rips said he thinks, from an organizational perspective, continuing to review how security is addressed is the next necessary step.

“I don’t pretend to have an answer, but it does make me angry,” he said. “That institutions have to spend money on security as opposed to spending money on their mission– that makes me angry. We have to do it, that’s the life we live in, but how great would it be to spend more money on senior lunches than on security guards?”

Maniquis said there is no formal plan in place for how CCEJ, as an organization, responds to events like the shooting. She said she would like to move toward larger-scale and more coordinated efforts in this area, because, no matter where a tragedy might occur, members of the local community feel the impacts.

“I think this is the time that we need to start to unpack what targeting looks like across all vulnerable communities and start thinking about creative ways to combat it,” she said. “There is a need for there to be some exploration into what solidarity looks like across communities, what allyship looks like across communities, and for us to grapple with those areas where we haven’t always had each other’s backs.”

Although he said he personally was not shocked by the shooting because of where society is today, Rips said the range of emotions for the local community went from shock and surprise, to sadness and anger.

“There is a need for folks to be “in community” and also to mourn immediately following events like this,” Maniquis said. “Sometimes we see an issue impact our own community and don’t always make the connections as to how those very things that motivated that level of hate impact other communities as well.”

Rips also said events like what happened in Pittsburgh and others like it “heighten people’s concern.”
“As diverse as Long Beach is, we are that diverse here [at the community center],” he said. “All religions, races cultures, everything, they’re here. We have this warm and welcoming environment for everyone, and people might start questioning, ‘Should I still go there– now I’m concerned, because it’s a Jewish institution.’”

Rips said approximately 400 people filled the AJCC at the memorial service, and he expects 300 to attend the weekend’s Jewish Film Festival, which runs through Sunday afternoon (more information is available at alpertjcc.org). He said the shooting will likely not be directly addressed at the festival, but he anticipates the topic to be in the air, especially for those who have not been together since the memorial service.

Following the service where the theme was “don’t let them die in vein,” Rips said he has heard a lot of people who have said they just want to find one thing they can do to try to make the world a better place.

“I talked to a mom yesterday who didn’t go into a lot of details with her kids because she didn’t want to scare them,” Rips said. “But she said, ‘Let’s do a mitzvah everyday.’ You should do a mitzvah, a good deed, everyday.”