That Won’t Work in Tacoma!

By Jackie Walton
Washington, USA

Tacoma. It’s a large town in the Western US state of Washington, typically seen by Washingtonians (including most Tacoma residents) as a mediocre suburb of Seattle. The streets, buildings, even the people, all are mediocre — or so they say.

I beg to differ.

Shortly after September 11th, 2001, I was absentmindedly reading the newspaper and noticed that the Tacoma Jewish Temple, Beth El, had been the victim of an attempted arson. Fortunately, a neighbor had called the fire department quickly so there was little damage. Yet this, combined with graffiti a week earlier blaming U.S. support of Israel for the terrorist attacks, had our community concerned. A local association of different religious groups decided to hold a candlelight vigil at the temple to support its members.

I was deeply disturbed by the news of the fire. Temple Beth El’s Rabbi Glickman had come to speak to my college class about Judaism. He had struck me as a man of strong character and faith. I had attended a Friday night service and appreciated the people I had met. How could someone try to destroy their temple?

I decided to attend the vigil. I wasn’t expecting many people; it had only been two days since the attempted fire, and I had seen next to no publicity. I hoped that we’d have at least 50, or maybe even 75 people.

Was I ever surprised! People began coming, and coming, and coming… until we had hundreds of attendees (the paper estimated 500). They crowded into chairs, against the wall, on the floor, yet still more came. All had heard over the previous two days and wanted to encourage our Jewish community.

That Won't Work in TacomaEventually, Rabbi Glickman spoke. He was obviously moved by the strong show of support. His message, simple and to the point, thanked us for coming and standing with the Jewish community to make sure that such acts of hatred “won’t work in Tacoma.” Later we all walked with our candles around the temple. This was the first rainy, windy night of the season, not the best night for candles, but this only brought us together. Christians, Jews and those of other persuasions chatted and re-lit each others’ candles as we surrounded the temple grounds. I was profoundly moved by this show of support, as anti-Semitism has always made me wonder if humans will ever move beyond scapegoating Jews.

The simple act of 500 Tacomans voting with their feet and coming to this vigil gave me renewed hope. We may never be able to rid society of those who can’t move beyond their hatred for what they don’t understand. Yet our meeting showed me that such people don’t have to call the shots. It takes strength and determination to stand up to hatred and prejudice. Tacoma may not be as exciting as Seattle, but this day we rose to the occasion, and demonstrated that we have that strength. I have never been so proud of my town.

Originally published as HeroicStories #252 on Nov 12, 2001

8 thoughts on “That Won’t Work in Tacoma!”

  1. I love Heroic Stories! We could all learn a lesson from the residents of Tacoma. We should come together as a nation, not under times of trial, but at time of peace too.

  2. I wonder if there would have been such support if it had been a Spiritualist Church? I would hope so, but doubt it. Yet Spiritualists believe in the same God, Jesus Christ and practice helping others through charity.

    We should all tolerate everyone’s faith, Jews, all Christians, Muslims and Spiritualists.

    A wonderful story and one that gives hope.

    And, Leo, this is NOT a criticism, but simply an observation so as I have taken the time to write it, I do hope you publish it.

  3. Thanks,
    A bit over a week ago I attempted suicide. I spent a week in the hospital. While there we only got sporadic bits of news and it seemed everything was going to hell in a handbasket. Dallas, Paris, Turkey.
    When I was released and checked my email there were about five Heroic Stories waiting.

    • As you say, it’s easy to think that all is lost if all you do is look at the news. I hope that HeroicStories can help balance the scale, even if just a little bit. My best wishes for you … it may not alway seem it, but the world and the people in it are much, much, better than the “new” might lead you to believe.

      • You only have to look for inspiration at the wonderful athletes taking part in the Olympic and Paralympic games to gain some good thoughts for the world at large. What wonderful people showing us we can all live together in harmony even when we are competing for something.

  4. I found this story very interesting and I salute the people of Tacoma. I live in Israel. 2 weeks ago there was a terror attack down the road from us. An Arab doctor was first at the scene and helped the victims of the attack. that is the way it should be. 2 weeks before, there was another terrorist attack in the same area. the red crescent ambulance that arrive first at the scene refused to give help to the victims and left the scene.

  5. This story dates back to 2001 and it is now 2016. There have been a number of black churches burned and vandalized in the past year, as well as Muslim temples, due to the fear of terrorism being spread against ALL Muslims, when most of us know it’s only a small fraction of extremists who distort their religion. I’m thankful that in many cases people of all faiths have come together in the cities and towns where these things occurred. Robert…I’d like to think that if something similar happened in your church that people would come out in droves as well. No matter where we live, we cannot let hate divide us. Only by sticking together can we hope to stop the hate and ignorance that a small percentage of people use in an attempt to separate and destroy our relationships and our Country.


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