July 11, 2002
Missing in Action: The Community
I am not a writer or pretend to be one. This is one of those times that I am writing out of anger and frustration.
There is anger about the terror attack at LAX, and now, anger and frustration at the Los Angeles Jewish community.
On Sunday, I am sure many of you were busy with things like family, soccer or work, or maybe you were gardening in your back yards. I am sure that everybody had a reason why they were not at the memorials held for the victims of the LAX attack.
Last Thursday, July 4, the unimaginable happened in Los Angeles. A lone gunman entered the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX and went directly to the El Al counter. For those of you not familiar with the Bradley International Terminal, let me tell you: you would have to walk by at least four other airline counters in order to get to El Al. In short, this terrorist was targeting Jews.
On Sunday, we all had a chance to show our solidarity with the victims' families. Los Angeles has one of the largest Jewish communities in the nation. It was a boosha (embarrassment ) to see such few Jews. At the 8:30 a.m. memorial service for Ya'akov Aminov, many Jewish leaders were there, including Rabbi Marvin Hier, Israeli Consul General Yuval Rotem, as well as dignitaries from the state and Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn. We listened to the speakers; we heard the family cry. There wasn't a dry eye in the parking lot where the memorial was held.
At 2 p.m., I was at a memorial and burial for the other shooting victim, Victoria Hen. What can I say? Another embarrassment! Rotem and Hier were there. Various political leaders, Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles President John Fishel and other Jewish leaders were also there. I saw Hahn for the second time in one day. I don't care what anyone says; he could have sent an assistant to be there, but he didn't, he came. In the morning, someone mentioned to me that Hahn was not tough enough in his condemnations in his speech. All I can say is he was there for both memorials, and that counts in my book.
At this funeral, just like at the morning one, there was not a dry eye. How can Israelis endure such suffering? Here I went to two memorials, and it drained me. Israelis live it everyday, with multiple ones at times.
What's the difference between these victims and the ones in Israel? We go on solidarity missions to Israel and visit with the victims' families and the injured, but not in our own back yard? Where were the rabbis: Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist? The terrorist didn't check what movement the victims belonged to before he shot them. He shot them because they were Jews.
And where were you?
It wouldn't have hurt to cancel what you had for that day and attend at least one of the memorials. You could still do your errands to do the following Sunday. These two families can't do that. Their lives have changed forever, and so the least we could have done is cancel our Sunday plans. Where were all the organizations that go to rallies and so on? Sunday must have been a very busy day in Los Angeles.
Amram Hassan is executive director of B'nai David Judea Congregation.