Within the course of six months, two synagogue shootings in the United States have brought the Jewish community, anti-Semitism, ethnic hatred—and the Sabbath—to the fore in national and global awareness.
On Sabbath morning, October 27, 2018, a mass shooting occurred at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in which 11 worshipers were killed and 7 injured. It has been called the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the history of the United States (1).
Exactly six months later, on April 27, 2019, another Sabbath morning, a second synagogue shooting occurred in the San Diego (CA) suburb of Poway, in which one woman was killed and three others—including the synagogue rabbi—suffered injuries (2). This attack occurred on the last day of Passover week, which fell on the last Sabbath of April (3).
Ethnic and Cultural Hatred on the Rise
This latest incident was but the most recent episode of racial violence at a time when harsh polarization, white nationalism, and the stoking of hatred against those perceived as “different” from “normal” Americans have notably increased in our society. The Anti-Defamation League, which has tracked anti-Semitic incidents since 1979, has chronicled a 57 percent increase since 2017 in vandalism and harassment (including bomb threats) against persons and organizations of Jewish heritage (4). Many believe the use of anti-Semitic imagery during the last presidential campaign, and the recent violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, which included neo-Nazi chants such as “Jews will not replace us,” bear significant responsibility for the uptick in these incidents (5).
Crimes against Muslims have also increased in the United States during the past few years (6), in addition to assaults on Latinos (7), the latter often spurred by the immigration debate.
Regardless of where we stand with reference to proposed political remedies to these problems, faithful Christians—in particular Seventh-day Adventists—should stand resolutely against violence of any sort, especially when such deeds are perpetuated against persons because of racial or other differences. Hatred or resentment of any kind based on someone’s ethnic or national heritage should find no home in the hearts of those to whom God has entrusted a message for “every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people” (Rev. 14:6).
Sabbath in the News
Horrific as these events surely are, anyone who treasures the true Sabbath in the manner of faithful Jews and devout Seventh-day Adventists will appreciate the media’s reporting of positive references to the Sabbath—or Shabbat, as it is called in Hebrew. Lori Gilbert Kaye, who died in the Poway synagogue shooting, was eulogized by her best friend in language that can only carry deep meaning for those who honor God’s weekly creation memorial: “She died a sacred death. She died on the Sabbath” (8).
Seventh-day Adventists believe the sanctity and eternal claims of the original creation Sabbath will constitute the great test of loyalty for the human race during the final showdown between Christ and Satan at the end of the world. Like Lori Kaye and those who died at the Pittsburgh synagogue last year, Seventh-day Adventists at the end of time may be called upon to suffer martyrdom on and for the Sabbath. Ellen White has written:
Men will be required to render obedience to human edicts in violation of the divine law. Those who are true to God will be menaced, denounced, proscribed. They will be “betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends,” even unto death (9).
Many will be imprisoned, many will flee for their lives from the cities and towns, and many will be martyrs for Christ’s sake in standing in defense of the truth (10).
Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, who presides at the Poway synagogue in California, urged his people in the wake of the attack, “Go to your synagogue. We need to fill up those rooms. We need to show them that terrorism will not prevail” (11). Goldstein went on to urge those who haven’t been to synagogue in a long time to come next weekend in solidarity with those of a common heritage (12).
One day God’s end-time people will confront a similar challenge. Will we choose to attend church when the laws of our land forbid us to honor the Bible Sabbath? The American Jewish community is presently being summoned to an act of courage which Seventh-day Adventists, in the not-too-distant future, will be compelled to perform in the face of public revilement and opposition far worse than those of the Jewish faith are presently confronting.
Conclusion—“We Need to Battle Darkness With Light”
Rabbi Goldstein’s words should inspire every Seventh-day Adventist as we contemplate our mission to the world and the coming end-time crisis: “We need to battle darkness with light” (13). As the Sabbath message advances and becomes a global issue, with the world arrayed against God’s faithful, there will likely be many more Sabbath shootings. Where will we stand in that day? As we ponder the present suffering of our Jewish friends, let us also ponder the question posed by the modern prophet in view of the crisis before us:
A storm is coming, relentless in its fury. Are we prepared to meet it? (14).
1. “Pittsburgh synagogue shooting” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pittsburgh_synagogue_shooting
2. “Poway synagogue shooting” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poway_synagogue_shooting
4. Jaweed Kaleem, “Poway shooting is the latest in a trend of anti-Semitic incidents,” Los Angeles Times, April 27, 2019 https://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-california-synagogue-shooting-anti-semitism-201904 story.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+latimes%2Fsports%2Fbaseball%2Fmlb%2Fdodgers+%28Dodgers+Now%29&utm_content=Yahoo+Search+Results
6. Janice Williams, “Under Trump, Anti Muslim Hate Crimes Have Increased at an Alarming Rate,” Newsweek, July 17, 2017 https://www.newsweek.com/hate-crime-america-muslims-trump-638000
7. Dennis Romero, “In the Era of Trump, Anti-Latino Hate Crimes Jumped 69% in LA,” LA Weekly, Sept. 29, 2016 https://www.laweekly.com/news/in-the-era-of-trump-anti-latino-hate-crimes-jumped-69-in-la-7443401
8. Trevor Hughes and Rebecca Plevin, “Her ‘final good deed’: Woman hailed as hero after taking bullets to protect rabbi during synagogue shooting,” USA Today, April 28, 2019 https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/2019/04/28/lori-gilbert-kaye-woman-protected-rabbi-synagogue-shooting/3608418002/
9. Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, p. 588.
10. ----Selected Messages, vol. 3, p. 397.
11. Julia Wick, Sarah Parvini, and Doug Smith, “Rabbi says synagogue gunman’s weapon jammed, preventing a ‘blood bath,’” Los Angeles Times, April 28, 2019 https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-rabbi-synagogue-gunman-poway-hate-20190428-story.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+latimes%2Fsports%2Fcollege%2Ffootball+%28L.A.+Times+-+College+Football%29&utm_content=Yahoo+Search+Results
13. Brian Pascus, Peter Martinez, “’We need to battle darkness with light’: Rabbi wounded in attack offers inspiration,” CBS News, April 29, 2019 https://www.cbsnews.com/news/deadly-chabad-poway-shooting-san-diego-lori-gilbert-kaye-rabbi-yisroel-goldstein-describes-attack/
14. White, Testimonies, vol. 8, p. 315.
Pastor Kevin Paulson holds a Bachelor’s degree in theology from Pacific Union College, a Master of Arts in systematic theology from Loma Linda University, and a Master of Divinity from the SDA Theological Seminary at Andrews University. He served the Greater New York Conference of Seventh-day Adventists for ten years as a Bible instructor, evangelist, and local pastor. He writes regularly for Liberty magazine and does script writing for various evangelistic ministries within the denomination. He continues to hold evangelistic and revival meetings throughout the North American Division and beyond, and is a sought-after seminar speaker relative to current issues in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He presently resides in Berrien Springs, Michigan.