Inclusion Overcomes Hate

Two weeks ago today, a middle-aged British man entered a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas while services were live streaming. The man was cold so the Rabbi made him hot tea. The Rabbi then told the man he was welcome to stay or he could also leave and it wouldn’t be considered rude. Instead of leaving or sitting, the man pulled out a gun and for the next 11 hours held the Rabbi and four others hostage. Around 9pm, the hostages escaped when the Rabbi threw a chair at the man, enabling them to flee, while law enforcement stormed the building.

In interviews, Rabbi Cytron-Walker has credited their survival to faith, law enforcement efforts, and extensive security training. He has also gone out of his way to say that he would invite in and serve tea to a stranger again. “This was one individual. I have led thousands of services and nothing has ever happened…so yes, I want them there…I want them to know they belong…Hospitality means the world.” Inclusion and belonging is a hallmark of Rabbi Cytron-Walker’s, and his wife’s, life and work. His wife is leader of programs at the Multicultural Alliance in Fort Worth and on the day of the hostage crisis, a group of imams, rabbis and pastors gathered with her and helped the FBI negotiate with the man. “There’s probably no one who can handle it better than (Cytron-Walker) because he gets a bigger picture than just his own tribe..that’s how he lived his life in the public square — committed to his own faith but respectful of other people’s faiths,” said one of the pastors. His ongoing conviction to create belonging and a welcoming environment for all in spite of the dangerous events that day is a testament that inclusion overcomes hate.

Thursday was Holocaust Remembrance Day, a time when we honor the 6 million Jewish victims and millions of others who died at the hands of Nazis, including many ordinary citizens trying to help save fellow human beings. It comes at a time when hate crimes are surging broadly and anti-semitic incidents globally have been identified as an “urgent human rights crisis”. Even in my own town, a progressive suburb outside of Boston, hate crimes have tripled this year over prior years. 

Inclusion isn’t one and done

So what can leaders, and each of us, do to combat these concerning trends. First and foremost, recognize the role that workplaces, and their leaders, play as one of the most trusted sources of information in people’s lives. When leaders practice inclusivity and belonging and demonstrate respect for diversity of all kinds, people notice. When you are clear you won’t tolerate offensive jokes and comments, or spreading conspiracy theories that have hate at their core, people notice. It’s tempting to approach inclusion as a “one and done, check the box” training. In reality, it needs to be an ongoing initiative because it tackles how people treat one another each and every day. One training doesn’t change behavior.

But it is Rabbi Citron-Walker’s own inspiring words, explaining very simply what we can do in our own lives, that I leave you with today.

We are not helpless.
We bring healing with band aids and hugs, a cup of coffee and chicken soup.

We are not helpless.
We bring healing with a text; a card; a response that says, “you are not alone”.

We are not helpless.
We bring healing with acceptance, patience, and understanding for ourselves and others
.

We are not helpless
We bring healing with words of compassion and acts of compassion, reaching out with care and love
.

We are not helpless
We bring healing to heart and mind, body and soul. We bring healing everyday.

We are not helpless.

Quote of the Week: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

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