The Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy in Overland Park, scene of a memorial service Tuesday for rabbis killed in a terrorist attack in Israel, shares a campus with the Jewish Community Center.
It was in the parking lot of the sprawling complex that a hate-filled gunman killed two innocent persons in April before driving to a nearby senior citizen facility and murdering a third person.
The violent incidents in Jerusalem and Johnson County, though different in motive, reflect the enduring reach of hatred and the tragic inclination of people and political movements to target persons because of race and ethnicity.
F. Glenn Miller Jr. told The Star in a story published this week that he went to Overland Park to kill Jews. He failed; all of his victims belonged to Christian churches. But something in Miller’s deranged mind had told him his life would be incomplete unless he murdered people of the Jewish faith.
The attack in a synagogue in Jerusalem claimed the lives of three rabbis, a fourth Jew, and an Israeli police officer. It was carried out by two Palestinian cousins who targeted religious Jews because of grievances against Israel. Both were killed by police.
Two of the slain rabbis have Kansas City connections. Kalman Levine, 55, grew up here as Cary Levine and was a 1976 graduate of Hyman Brand. Mosheh Twersky, 59, was the uncle of Rabbi Meshulam Twersky, who teaches Jewish studies at Hyman Brand.
Along with a third rabbi, Avraham Shmuel Goldberg, 68, and neighborhood resident Aryeh Kupinsky, 43, they were facing east for morning prayer when the attackers struck with a gun, knives and axes. They were brutal and unconscionable deaths for religiously devout men.
The sectarian nature of the attack raised fears about even more religiously motivated violence in the Middle East, where even Muslims of different sects are murdering one another.
The Israeli government responded harshly, vowing to raze the homes of the two attackers and displace their family members. It is difficult to comprehend how such a move will serve any purpose other than stoke more resentment.
While the Middle East is an eternal hotbed for hate-based atrocities, Miller’s defiant accounting of his heinous acts shows that even a Midwestern U.S. suburb is not safe from that kind of evil.
“Every Jew in the world knows my name now,” Miller told The Star.
He’s wrong about that, too. But his actions did serve to remind us that hatred remains, sadly, a global affliction.