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Guest Opinion: Church shootings, anti-Semitic attacks. It could happen here.

By David Warren–
Last year, the Anti-Defamation League tracked more than 1,300 anti-Semitic incidents. That number includes the stabbing at a rabbi’s home last month in New York, followed by a gunman killing two churchgoers in Texas the next day.

David Warren

Over the past few years, church, mosque, temple and synagogue congregants have been killed and maimed.  It is easy to believe that it will never happen here. 

Unfortunately, this type of ignorance and bigotry exists here in Citrus Heights. It is not something which only happens in Texas, Pennsylvania or New York City and Los Angeles. 

Unfortunately, we live in a community which includes the same type of malcontents and bigots who have killed and injured too many people elsewhere.

In Orangevale, a Sikh temple was defaced earlier this month, and not too long ago a Sikh temple in West Sacramento was vandalized by a man who thought he was damaging a Mosque.  In 1999, three synagogues in Sacramento were set afire by two brothers, and it was only because the address of a fourth was incorrectly listed in the telephone directory that prevented a fourth fire.  Mosques and churches in Sacramento have also been defaced. 

Being Jewish, I should be able to walk anywhere in Citrus Heights wearing my Yarmulke (skull cap).  In December, while walking in the parking lot in front of the Safeway, young men approached and knocked the Yarmulke from my head.  The men made Islamophobic comments because they mistakenly believed that I was Muslim, unable to discern between a Kufi and a Yarmulke.

I did not give the hoodlums the satisfaction of showing either fear or disabusing them of the notion that I am a Muslim.  Jewish or Muslim, the threat to civility was the same.

Similar incidents of young met knocking the Yarmulke off my head occurred three more times last year in the parking lots at the Sunrise Mall and MarketPlace.  

Now, because of my age and medical situation, my wife is too afraid to allow me wear my Yarmulke in public unless I am going to a destination which is indoors or I know will be secure.  How did this happen in Citrus Heights?

This is not a complaint about the Citrus Heights Police Department.  On a scale of criminal severity, stupid people knocking the Yarmulke off my head in a parking lot does not rise to the level of a crime which requires a lights and sirens response.  In fact, the people involved, being cowards, run away once I started to call the police with my cellphone.

All of us are to blame for this situation.  While I was being assaulted in the parking lots, people walked by, ignoring the taunting that was taking place, with not one reaching for a cellphone to call the police, or going to one of the businesses to ask an employee to make the call.

Our City Council made an extraordinary effort to celebrate “Christmas” at city hall, yet each year fails to note and wish a joyous and happy holiday for those who celebrate, for example:

  • Diwali (“Nagar Kirtan festival”), a Sikh festival that draws as many as 100,000 to Yuba City
  • Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan
  • Vesak, the Buddha’s birthday
  • The High Holy days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur

Members of these and other religions reside in our community.  Although adults may simply sluff off the failure to recognize their respective holiday, their children do not.

The weeks and months ahead portend tolerance will be severely tested, regardless of one’s political and religious beliefs.  We should all fear a return of the insanity which led to World War II type internment camps followed by the paranoia caused by the era of McCarthyism. 

If individuals who have no restraint in knocking a Yarmulke from the head of a senior citizen are not stopped, it is painfully clear that it permits the same type of individuals who goose-stepped through the streets of Germany to act out in our community.

There is no simple solution to ignorance and bigotry.  Should the city hall be decorated with “non-denominational” Christmas decorations?  Of course.  Should Council members and staff wish people Merry Christmas?  Of course.  But it would also be good for our community leaders to take the time to wish our community members well for their holidays for those that do not celebrate Christmas. 

For the same reasons, all of us should make the effort to make sure that all residents are treated year-round with the same kindness and respect as those who celebrate Christmas. And more importantly, when you walk by a person that is being harassed because of their religious appearance, don’t ignore the situation: make the call to request help to stop the spread of ignorance and bigotry.

David Warren is a Citrus Heights resident and legislative advocate at the State Capitol with Taxpayers for Public Safety. He can be reached at

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