By: Andrew Goldstein, Pittsburgh Post Gazette 02/14/2019
Leaders of three different faiths whose houses of worship were struck by violence came together Wednesday night in Pittsburgh to discuss ways to combat hate.
Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, of Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill, the Rev. Eric S.C. Manning, of Mother Emmanuel AME Church in Charelston, S.C., and Pardeep Singh Kaleka, a member of the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wis., where six people were killed in 2012, took part in the “Unifying our Communities in Response to Hate” conference at the August Wilson Center, Downtown.
Though the men came from different religions and have different backgrounds, they all hit a common theme when musing about how to bring an end to hate: education.
Rabbi Myers talked about the education curriculum called STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — and how it was later changed to STEAM, to include art. The rabbi argued that the curriculum should now be adjusted to STREAM, adding religion, so that people can learn about how certain belief systems are different — and how they are similar.
“There is so much more that we have in common than you would realize,” Rabbi Myers said. “It’s time to take that step. I hope you’ll join me.”
Pastor Manning echoed Rabbi Myers’ sentiments, saying that when people get to know their neighbors, they realize “there is much more that unites us than divides us.”
“We must learn how to take care of each other,” he said. “We must learn how to treat each other with dignity and respect. We must get to know our neighbor as we know ourselves.”
Mr. Kaleka, whose father was one of the members of the Sikh temple killed on Aug. 5, 2012, spoke on stage with Arno Michaelis, a former skinhead leader who now denounces white-supremacy.
The two men worked together to form Serve2Unite, an organization that “diverts young people from violent extremist ideologies, gun violence, school shootings, bullying, and substance abuse, along with other forms of self-harm.”
Mr. Michaelis spoke about escaping to world of white-supremacy. He said that his constant feeling of hatred became exhausting, and that the kindness shown to him by people of different races and religions contradicted his outlook on the world as a teenager and young man.
During the forum segment, led by Esther Bush, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh, the rabbi, pastor and Mr. Kaleka were joined on stage by Wasi Mohamed, executive director of the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh, and the Rev. Paul Abernathy, the CEO and director of FOCUS Pittsburgh.
State Attorney General Josh Shapiro also addressed the crowd of more than 100 people.