The impact of hate speech was the focus of a Nov. 9 community gathering coinciding with Trinity Lutheran Seminary at Capital University's annual observance of Kristallnacht.
Kristallnacht, or Night of Broken Glass, refers to the anti-Jewish pogroms that took place Nov. 9 and 10, 1938, throughout Germany, Austria and the Sudetenland. Trinity Lutheran Seminary jointly presented the Kristallnacht observance with Capital's Jewish Student Organization and JewishColumbus, a nonprofit organization that raises funds and awareness for causes related to the Jewish community.
Trinity's event organizers selected the theme, "Broken Glass, Shattered Lives: The Impact of Hate Speech," while planning the Kristallnacht observance last summer, said Brad Binau, Trinity's academic dean and professor of pastoral theology. Events of recent months, including the deaths of 11 people in a shooting Oct. 27 at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, have made the theme all the more relevant, he said.
While planning the Kristallnacht observance, "there was a general sense that public discourse has become less civil in the past few years," Binau said.
The Nov. 9 community gathering included a keynote speech by Mark Weitzman, director of government affairs at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, followed by a panel discussion with Weitzman; the Rev. Kathryn Kleinhans, seminary dean; and Mitsu Narui, associate director of institutional effectiveness at Capital.
"Words really matter and have their own power," Binau said. "There's a connection to how we talk to each and what we end up doing to each other."
After the panel discussion, several of the nearly 500 people in attendance ventured outside and gathered around the seminary's "Promise of Life" sculpture, created by artist Alfred Tibor, a Holocaust survivor who settled in Columbus and died in 2017.
The participants observed a moment of silence as the names of the Tree of Life Synagogue victims were read aloud.
"Part of our commitment when that sculpture was placed on campus was to foster Christian/Jewish dialogue," Binau said. "Our seminary was founded by a German Lutheran to remember these issues."