‘Heart-wrenching’: Religious leaders voice deep concerns over recent violence

Local News

Attacks on religious communities this holiday season include stabbings at the home of a rabbi in New York and a gunman killing two at a church in Texas.

In the wake of the violence, 8News spoke with local faith leaders about how the attacks have impacted their thoughts and communities.

Richmond City Councilman Mike Jones, the 9th District representative and local pastor, addressed the attacks across the country on Monday, particularly focusing on the deadly shooting at a Texas church on Sunday.

“Heart-wrenching to think that someone would walk into a place of worship and start shooting,” Jones said.

A volunteer security officer at the church shot and killed the alleged gunman.

“Every church, big or small, should make sure that when people’s backs are at the doors, that someone is looking at those doors,” Jones suggested.

Last year, some Virginia lawmakers tried but failed to change state law and allow guns inside of places of worship. Councilman Jones said he supports some of the more restrictive gun control bills already filed for the upcoming session.

“I believe in the Second Amendment, I do. I just simply believe we need common sense gun laws,” Jones explained. “I’m glad that individuals in the sanctuary in Texas, that someone did have a gun. Things could have go so out of hand.”

While many Jewish people are celebrating the last night of Hanukkah, others are in hospital recovering after police say a man stabbed a rabbi and four others over the weekend. The group was celebrating Hanukkah at the rabbi’s home in Monsey, New York.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the stabbing attack marks New York’s 13th attack on Jewish people within just three weeks.

“Frankly, you spiritually run out of gas every once in a while,” Rabbi Patrick Beaulier told 8News. “And for me today, all I can do is keep moving forward.”

Beaulier, a local rabbi, said the recent violence hurts the Jewish community in a conversation with 8News.

“Although very hopeful for the future, a sense of realism about what we can continue to expect,” he said.

Rabbi Beaulier thinks politicians should get involved more than they are. He also blamed social media for preventing people from talking face to face about religion.

“I have a message for the people who commit these types of crimes,” Beaulier said. “You are one of God’s children, you matter in this world, what ever has brought you to where you are, please understand that this is not where you need to be.”

The man accused in the stabbings was charged with federal crimes on Monday. The Jewish Community Federation of Richmond condemned the attack in a statement.

“As the final day of Chanukah comes to a close, we are still left with the sadness and grief from the events of Saturday evening in Monsey, NY when a man wielding a knife attacked the home of Rabbi Chaim Leibish Rottenberg, stabbing five people during a Chanukah celebration,” the statement reads in part. “Here at the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond, we stand in solidarity with the Jewish Federation & Foundation of Rockland County and the entire Jewish community in expressing outrage at this latest attack, part of a growing global epidemic of anti-Semitic violence. It is incomprehensible to think that we are not safe in a home, a supermarket, or a sanctuary for prayer – and it is unacceptable. Addressing this scourge must be the highest priority of government officials and communal organizations.”

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