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Synagogue Attack Makes Community Stronger Than Before, Rabbi Says

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I want to bring in another voice here. It is Rabbi David Castiglione. He leads the congregation at Temple Adat Shalom. It is also in Poway, Calif. It's actually just a few miles from the synagogue where the shooting took place. And of course, people were there celebrating the last Sabbath of Passover when they learned of what happened nearby. Rabbi, we're all thinking of your community, and thanks for being here this morning.

DAVID CASTIGLIONE: Thank you. Thank you.

GREENE: Where exactly were you and what was happening when you first heard about this?

CASTIGLIONE: Well, we had just actually finished our morning services. We had gathered. And that's when text messages started coming over the phone. You know, we are a small community, and word spreads like wildfire. Those who were presenting finished the program. But one could see, every time we'd walk back and forth through the social hall, that people were getting texts, were talking with each other and communicating what they were hearing. By the end of the program, by around 12:30 or so, we were able to just sort of confer with each other, let everybody know what was going on to the extent that we knew. And folks were able to go home.

GREENE: How close are your two congregations? I mean, we're talking just a few miles. Right?

CASTIGLIONE: Yeah. So geographically, they're fairly close. We don't tend to walk in the same circles. Religiously, we're fairly - we're different in terms of our practice, and that doesn't necessarily allow us to operate in the same circles often. But in terms of it being a community, you know, it's a community where everybody knows everybody. And regardless of faith, we're there for each other.

GREENE: So you feel like this has brought your two synagogues together in a way?

CASTIGLIONE: I would answer that by saying it's certainly bringing the community together, stronger than even before. When the incident in Pittsburgh had occurred, our community rallied in outrage, in sympathy, in grief. And I think that this has brought us even more determined to keep the good alive.

GREENE: What is your message to people in your congregation - I mean, people of all faiths who might be starting to question whether it's really safe to come to places of worship and attend services when they have watched all of this bloodshed?

CASTIGLIONE: I think that that's a reasonable question on the surface. But I think the deeper question is related to the state of affairs that we find ourselves in our nation and the world. Violence has now become the new norm. Whether we are a child in our high schools, in our elementary schools; whether are walking in a mall - violence is here. If we live in the inner city, violence is endemic.

And the use of guns to perpetrate that violence is way out of control. So the question for us is, you know, not do we stay away from a synagogue or from a church? - but what do we do to make the synagogue and a church a beacon? - because nowhere we go are we going to escape this until we put an end to it.

GREENE: So is there something we should be asking of our political leaders at this moment?

CASTIGLIONE: There is absolutely everything that we could be asking of them. All of us across the country can be advocating for safe gun legislation. We can be talking to our children in class. I mean, let's not forget that this is a 19-year-old child who went out and tried to wreak mayhem in a congregation of people he didn't know; that every time there's a school shooting, it tends to be another child who is wreaking havoc and taking the lives of people they don't necessarily know.

GREENE: Rabbi David Castiglione of the Temple Adat Shalom synagogue in Poway, Calif. Rabbi, thank you. And again, condolences to your community.

CASTIGLIONE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.