by Brian Edward Brouse
Three years ago, a young girl named Layla entered B’nai Emunah Preschool. On August 12, 2016, her uncle Khalid Jabara lost his life to Islamophobia hate and fear. On July 7 this year, on what would have been Khalid’s 38th birthday, the Khalid Jabara Tikkun Olam Library was dedicated at the preschool.
Over 250 preschoolers, teachers, parents, the Jabara family and invited guests joined together in the sanctuary to dedicate the library. They were welcomed by Shelli Wright, director of the preschool who welcomed the guests and spoke about the reaction of the preschool community to the tragedy that ended Jabara’s life, “We did what instinct told us to do. We gathered our chicks together to protect them.”
However, the extended preschool family knew they wanted to do more. They knew that the most effective of all security measures would be education and that resources to help the preschoolers from birth through the age of six were needed. Out of this, The Khalid Jabara Tikkun Olam Memorial Library Project was born. Shelli Wright thanked the Jabara family for allowing the preschool to be part of the healing process and also the faculty of B’nai Emunah Preschool for their vision and heart. Two preschool teachers, Toni Willis and Caitlyn Wright led the project. Tulsa community activist Shagah Zakerion volunteered many hours acting as a consultant for the project. In less than 24 hours, the wish list for the library was complete. In less than three weeks, over 600 books were donated.
Shelli thanked Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum and Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Deborah Gist for coming and that their presence showed a sense of unity. Rabbi Daniel Kaiman led Shabbat services for the group, the preschoolers and and both Caitlyn Wright and Toni Willis also spoke. Superintendent Gist said that we all send our love and prayers to the family. Today is about reflecting and honoring Khalid.
In his remarks, Mayor Bynum said that Congregation B’nai Emunah is a voice for standing up for the community, and that last year the congregation concluded celebrating its 100th anniversary. He asked that as Tulsans what can we do when something like this tragedy happens? How do we counter hate and ignorance? “It is through education,” he said. He added that Jabara would be a light for these preschoolers as they go out into the world.
Khalid’s sister, Victoria Jabara Williams spoke for the family. She thanked everyone and said Khalid had “a heart of sugar.”
This space will house children’s books and family resources that illuminate ideas of justice, compassion, empathy, diversity, and social change. The first Social Justice Story Hour will be held Thursday, September 7 at 5:30 p.m. in the Khalid Jabara Tikkun Olam Memorial Library at the B’nai Emunah Preschool. Please come for snacks, stories, and social justice superheroes.