My granddaughter, Johanna, a junior in college, was murdered May 13th, 2009. I feel impelled to express my belief, as I did at her memorial service.
“We mourn, we pray, we question, we join to spend our tears.
We have lost a precious life due to a young man, who, according to his diary, needed to kill Jews and Wesleyan college students.
Some of us are here because our parents escaped from the pogroms in Eastern Europe.
Some of us are here because our parents escaped from the Holocaust in Western Europe.
All of us have witnessed fanaticism and anti-Semitism in our own country. As a youngster in Nazi Germany I lost family and class mates due to hate directed against Jews.
I believe that I can honor Johanna by not becoming embittered by this heinous crime. She, although young in years, worked hard to combat prejudice towards and hatred of minorities, the downtrodden and disadvantaged. As a youngster, Johanna and the children of the co-housing community, where she played and studied, put on street fairs, rope jumping contests and talent shows to raise pennies for the Larimer county food bank.
When in high school Johanna was part of the United Nations assembly at Columbia University. As she became older she interpreted Spanish for Planned Parenthood and volunteered to help with the care of abused and neglected children. She taught English in Europe; did construction work on the Lakota reservation. In college she studied gender politics and agitated for women’s rights. Her goal was to become conversant with international access to medical care by attending graduate school at Columbia.
As devastated as I am by her violent death, I am determined to continue Johanna’s efforts to make the world a safer place for people of different backgrounds and all religions, Jewish, Muslim, Christian and others. I do not wish to confront hate with hate. Johanna can no longer help us, but join me in my striving to honor her by making a strong commitment to win respect and justice for all people every where. Only this, I believe, will be a worthy memorial to my granddaughter.”