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Despite the recent hate crime attacks, the Phoenix community stays unified

The message of unity empowered the Phoenix community during a vigil held Oct. 30

Imani Randle'

ASU associate professor and gubernatorial candidate, David Garcia, comforts vigil attendees at the Cutler Plotkin Jewish Heritage Center in Phoenix, Arizona, on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018.

The Phoenix community came together on Oct. 30 in unity to praise the lives that were lost in the shooting attacks in Pittsburgh and Louisville as well to condemn all hate crimes and violence.

A vigil was held at the Cutler Plotkin Jewish Heritage Center in Phoenix in honor of the 11 lives lost at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and the two lives lost at a Kroger grocery store in Louisville from a hate crime attack.

David Schapira, an ASU law student, former Arizona State Senator and Tempe Councilmember, organized the vigil. 

“We honor the victims in Pittsburgh and law enforcement who were injured and talked about the hate crimes in this country and the necessity to push back and condemn all violence of these hate crimes,” Schapira said. "I was shocked and so happy to see about 600 people turn out for this event."

The vigil was also co-sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League of Arizona, the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix, Valley Interfaith Project AZ, the Arizona Jewish Historical Society and Arizona Jews for Justice.

Schapira encountered a hate crime when he ran for State House. 

“Police informed me there were swastika graffiti on my campaign flyers,” Schapira said. 

The hate crime was reported but the suspects were never found.

“I hope people will refrain from blaming the victims. The root of the problem is hate and anti-semitism, and we need to send a unified message,” Schapira said.

Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz is a part of Arizona Jews for Justice & Valley Beit Midrash and encouraged everyone to vote and unify together as communities, while reflecting on the multiple hate crime attacks. 

“America has a sickness,” Yanklowitz said. “Today, we also remember Maurice Stallard and Vickie Jones, two African Americans who were murdered this past weekend in what appears to be a hate crime.” 

A Holocaust survivor, Oskar Knoblauch, spoke about the importance of respect to your enemies. 

“We must learn to work together and respect each other, because if we don’t we will perish together,” Knoblauch said. 

Shay Khatiri, an ASU alumnus and Iranian immigrant, started a viral GoFundMe campaign to raise money for the Tree of Life Synagogue congregation and victims.

Born in Gorgan, Iran, both of his grandfathers had Jewish friends and he grew up around Jewish philosophy. He came to the United States after being expelled from his college in Iran for protesting for the Iranian Green Movement.

Despite living in the U.S. since May 2014, Khatiri is still not a U.S. citizen. Khatiri has applied for political asylum and is waiting for a court appeal to be processed. 

Khatiri’s friend, Sara Sirota, welcomed him into her home during this process. She is Jewish and when Khatiri noticed her pain from the recent tragic news, he felt the need to take action. 

With the goal of one million dollars, the campaign has raised over $900,000 dollars in three days by 15,257 people with the goal to make a positive impact and change.

“There are a lot of funeral costs. People have lost their sources of income, and the synagogue has been damaged, and people have injuries,” Khatiri said.

Khatiri said he believes that unity is the key to helping the community cope with tragedies.

“Despite this evil act, I wanted people to know that they are still loved. It’s a tragedy that even though there are Americans are not connected to the Jewish community, but they don’t know what to do to help,” Khatiri said. 

David Garcia, associate professor at ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and gubernatorial candidate for the Democratic Party, hopes to send a message to all of Arizona.

“Who you spend time with shows who you value in society, and it is important that Arizona understands my commitment to inclusion in leadership,” Garcia said.

Garcia's campaign focuses on supporting all groups in Arizona and bringing them together to make a change.

“This is the message that will lead the state to be committed to providing policy that creates change,” Garcia said.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story did not clarify David Garcia's candidacy. The article has been updated to reflect this change. 

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