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For one, tragedy is reminder of miracle



Published: Wed, September 12, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The rabbi said real faith will fight terrorism.

By D.A. WILKINSON

VINDICATOR RELIGION EDITOR

LIBERTY -- Those searching for hope after Tuesday's horror should know about the miracle witnessed by Rabbi Berel Sasonkin of Children of Israel Congregation.

The rabbi's brother, Nachum, was shot in the brain in 1994 and was given no chance of survival.

A van full of rabbinical students was sprayed with gunfire on the Brooklyn Bridge as they returned from a prayer vigil for their ailing spiritual leader. One died, and three, including Nachum, then 18, were injured.

But Nachum recovered.

"I have seen miracles before my eyes," the rabbi later told his congregation.

When Rabbi Sasonkin heard news reports of the attack on the World Trade Center Tuesday, it brought back memories.

Familiar place: "The first hospital to hold casualties was the same hospital where my brother was recovering -- St. Vincent," he said. "It gave me alarm right away."

Tuesday's attacks were shocking, he said, adding, "There aren't many words that describe the hurt and feeling."

Still, the rabbi's personal brush with violence has not softened his faith or strength.

"I think that the whole world must take action against terrorism. We should not be tolerant whatsoever of any terrorist violence or terrorist movement in any shape. We should totally eliminate it from the world."

Belief: The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon signaled that terrorists want to take control of the world, the rabbi believes.

"The United States, the superpower of the world, should take action to eliminate all terrorism, wherever it is."

Authorities haven't identified the people responsible for Tuesday's attacks. New York City cabdriver Rashid Baz was convicted of murder and attempted murder in the shooting that injured Nachum. But many terrorist groups say they are acting for religious reasons.

"No one [can say] what is a religion and what religion a person may follow," Rabbi Sasonkin said. "But if a person is violent through any method, specifically using their religion -- unless all religion is based on terrorism -- it's a disgrace to their religion and a disgrace to the almighty God of everyone actually worshipping and believing."

The rabbi added, "People take their anger and hatred and emotions and action, and mix it with religion, and that gives it a double effect. Unfortunately, we've seen how it's used. People take religion and use it for violent action. They try to do their violence religiously."

Key to the problem: The rabbi says religion is not the problem. He sees terrorism as a misuse of religion.

"People take their religion ... to go under evil intentions. People will try to find anything, when they have hatred, to do it."

The rabbi sees God as the answer.

"The way to fight it is to show everyone that God is a peaceful entity, and that God's creation is in order to bring mercy into this world, and compassion, and acting good to one another. Those who are using violence are doing the opposite."

He also says people should look at problems clearly.

"Basically, people should look at problems straight, without looking at the side [issues.] The problem is that people have hatred toward others and will try to use anything to get their target."

Those responsible for such acts must be held accountable, he said. "That's the only way to bring justice to the world."

And don't forget Nachum.

He's back in America after living in Israel. He's an ordained rabbi now. He's not heading a congregation but is continuing his studies. And the man given no chance to live got married in April.

wilkinson@vindy.com.




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