In the wake of the shooting attack at Washington’s Holocaust Museum last week, many organizations issued public statements. Most of those were similar to these words from President Obama: “This outrageous act reminds us that we must remain vigilant against anti-Semitism and prejudice in all its forms.”
Agudath Israel, the Jewish communal organization representing the interests of traditionally Orthodox Jews, issued a statement as well. Its statement, though, was different — it consisted solely of an open letter to the young son of the security guard who gave his life defending the visitors to that Museum.
This letter’s personal touch reminds us all that this was not only an outrage against the national consciousness, but an acutely personal tragedy as well.
To the Young Son of Stephen Tyrone Johns:
Your name wasn’t mentioned on the ABC-Nightline report where you were briefly interviewed after the tragic death of your father. But what mattered were your words, that your Dad was “a loving father” and your “hero.”
I want you to know that he is a hero to us too.
Your father died protecting people, young and old, of many races and religions, who had come to a very special place: the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. He was the victim of a terrible hatred — a hatred cut from the same ugly cloth as the hatred that killed my grandparents in Europe, a hatred the museum was designed to warn us about, and to help erase from the world.
May we soon see the day when such irrational hatred in all its forms will be erased from the world. And may you derive comfort, even as you mourn your terrible loss, from the fact that your father was not only a hero in your life but died a hero to the world.
Rabbi David Zwiebel
Executive Vice President
Agudath Israel of America