In the aftermath of threats and vandalism against the Jewish community, an Overland Park victim of anti-Semitism is continuing her work in the area to connect with community members of all backgrounds to defuse hate-filled acts.
“It’s important we do hear their story so we understand where their ignorance and hate come from,” said Mindy Corporon of Overland Park.
Corporon lost her son and father to anti-Semitism, after F. Glenn Miller Jr. targeted the Jewish community in a shooting spree on April 13, 2014.
“A white supremacist murdered my family,” she said, “so I speak from experience that there’s a group of people out there that want to kill Jews.”
Bomb threats caused the evacuation of Jewish organizations in at least 12 different states on Monday, the latest in a rash of similar incidents over the last two months.
Corporon drew a parallel to the triple shooting in Olathe at Austins Bar & Grill, in which Adam Purinton allegedly shot to death Srinivas Kuchibhotla, who was originally from India, and injured two others, after he reportedly told two men to get out his country. Purinton is charged with first-degree murder and the FBI is investigating the shooting as a hate crime.
“It sounds like he wanted to kill brown people or those of a different color or nationality than him,” Corporon said.
Reports of anti-Semitic threats were called into Jewish community centers and schools in states including New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Michigan, Delaware, Indiana and Pennsylvania.
“Anti-Semitism of this nature should not and must not be allowed to endure in our communities,” said the Jewish Community Center Association in response to Monday’s threats. “The Justice Department, Homeland Security, the FBI, and the White House, alongside Congress and local officials, must speak out — and speak out forcefully — against this scourge of anti-Semitism impacting communities across the country.”
In Columbia, two University of Missouri students, Erich J. Eastman, 18, and Noah B. Rogers, 19, face harassment charges after allegedly sending anti-Semitic notes to a fellow Jewish student over a course of six months.
Corporon said white supremacists and other hate groups may be exploiting President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” to pursue their ignorant ideology.
“It seems to me that different groups of people are interpreting (the slogan) their own way, and there is a faction of people who are angry and hateful and think that a whole faith should not exist,” Corporon said.
Miller was found guilty of capital murder after he targeted Jewish people with a shotgun outside the Jewish Community Center and Village Shalom care center in Overland Park. Miller killed three people, Corporon’s father and son — William Corporon, 69, and Reat Underwood, 14 — and Terri LaManno, 53.
On Tuesday, Trump did denounce anti-Semitism and the recent threats against Jewish people, calling them “painful reminders” of lingering prejudice in America. The remarks, made at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, marked the first time he directly addressed increasing incidents of anti-Semitism.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, around 90 threats have been made so far this year to Jewish institutions across the country. ADL said there were at least 20 threats on Monday.
“While this latest round of bomb threats to Jewish Community Centers and day schools across the country again appears to not be credible, we are nonetheless urging all Jewish institutions to review their procedures,” said ADL chief executive Jonathan A. Greenblatt.
The Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City, based in Overland Park, released a statement about the threats faced by the Jewish community around the country.
“Although we did not receive a threat here in Kansas City, our thoughts are with each of the organizations impacted by these latest threats,” the release stated. “We remain vigilant and will continue to work with local and national law enforcement agencies to ensure proper safety protocols are in place. The safety of our members and guests is always our top priority.”
Following the loss of her son and father, Corporon helped found the Faith Always Wins Foundation and the SevenDays Ripple event, a weeklong series of activities to commemorate the victims of the 2014 shooting spree outside the Jewish Community Center and Village Shalom, and to promote understanding and acceptance among different groups.
The SevenDays activities, which will take place next month, begin with a “Day of Love” on April 18. A Christian minister, Muslim imam and Jewish rabbi will together speak about the similarities within their respective religions. The event begins at 7 p.m. at the Congregation B’nai Jehudah.
“We’re not born with hate,” Corporon said. “We’re born needing to be loved and wanting to be loved and nurtured, and we’re taught hate by others.”
Other activities planned for the SevenDays Ripple event include the “Faith, Love & Song” competition, which will reward a $5,000 scholarship to the winning songwriters who compose lyrics that encourage and inspire acceptance. Song winners will be announced during a special evening program April 20.
A “Peace Walk” will take place April 24, embarking from Union Station, and a youth interfaith workshop on April 24 will be held at Cleveland University in Overland Park.
All events require registration, Corporon said, and some are free. To learn more about the activities planned, visit GiveSevenDays.org.
McClatchy’s Teresa Welsh contributed to this report.