Jewish leaders on Long Island reacted with sadness Monday to the fatal shootings outside two Jewish centers near Kansas City the day before Passover, but said they weren't surprised and expressed grim recognition that similar attacks may occur in the future.
"Unfortunately it's not the first time, and it probably and sadly won't be the last time the Jewish community is going to be targeted by hate groups," said Rabbi Charles Klein of the Merrick Jewish Center.
Part of the Haggadah text that is read during Passover seder dinners states that "in every generation someone rises up trying to destroy the Jewish people," said Klein, a former president of the New York Board of Rabbis. "In some generations it is dictators and tyrants. Sadly, almost all the time [today] it is some hate group that is fueled by anti-Semitism."
The weeklong Passover celebration, which began Monday night, commemorates the Jews' historic exodus from slavery in Egypt 3,300 years ago.
Rabbi L. Ronald Androphy of the East Meadow Jewish Center said he is calling on all people -- Jewish, Muslim, Christian and those of other religions -- to place on their dinner tables this week a piece of matzo, the unleavened "bread of affliction" traditionally used during seders. He wants to remind everyone to fight against persecution.
"Our role as Americans is to make sure we eradicate hatred and intolerance," he said. He recalled a letter George Washington wrote in 1790 to a Jewish community in Newport, R.I., describing America as a country "which gives bigotry no sanction."
Rabbi Steven Moss of the B'nai Israel Reform Temple in Oakdale said Sunday's shootings -- in which three people were killed, none of them Jewish -- "casts a level of sadness on a very joyous holiday. But we always have to realize that there are those who perpetrate evil in the world -- whether it is this individual or a pharaoh or, of course, on a much larger scale, an Adolf Hitler."
Moss, who also is chairman of the Suffolk County Human Rights Commission, said many hate crimes on Long Island are anti-Semitic in nature even though Jews make up a relatively small percentage of the population.
Rabbi Leslie Schotz of the Jewish Center of Bay Shore said she has been told by area school officials that it is not unusual to find swastikas painted on the walls of schools. "Hate against the Jews is still lingering from Holocaust times," she said.
She added: "There's a reality in the world that is even beyond Jews -- the continued violence in the world, especially with children in school."
Rabbi Helayne Shalhevet of Temple Beth Emeth of Mount Sinai said the attacks were "a chilling reminder at this time when we are celebrating our freedom, that the world is not quite at peace and not everyone is truly free. Not everyone is truly free from bigotry; not everyone is truly free from hatred."