In the summer of 1999, a wave of hate crimes washed across the United States. In Northern California, three synagogues in Sacramento were firebombed and two gay men in Redding were murdered in their home. Those murders linked two white supremacists to the arson. Some media outlets dubbed it "the Summer of Hate."
Before sunrise on June 18, 1999, a pair of white supremacist brothers set ablaze three Sacramento-area synagogues. They were Congregation B’Nai Israel, Congregation Beth Shalom and Kenesset Israel Torah Center. Nobody was hurt in those fires, but they caused nearly $3 million in damages and destroyed a library of Jewish history. The Sacramento community responded with interfaith gatherings and, in an era before online crowdfunding campaigns, fundraising more than $1 million for education and videos promoting diversity.
The hate crimes also planted the seed for the Unity Center, a permanent exhibit at the California Museum that “celebrates the state’s diverse people, customs and cultures” and its history of activism. The Unity Center will host a weekend of “Stand Up for Unity in Your Community” events to commemorate 20 years since the attacks.
Recent polls and studies have found that white supremacy and propaganda espousing hate is on the rise in the U.S. Twenty years after these hate crimes, William Recht, executive director of The Jewish Federation of the Sacramento Region, reflects on how far we’ve come in addressing hate and white supremacy—and how far our country still has to go.