He Was Shot In A Hate Crime. It Only Strengthened His Judaism Josh Stepakoff survived a shooting at a Jewish day camp when he was 6 years old. But, as he tells his father, it took years before he began to consider why he was targeted.
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He Was Shot In A Hate Crime. It Only Strengthened His Judaism

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He Was Shot In A Hate Crime. It Only Strengthened His Judaism

He Was Shot In A Hate Crime. It Only Strengthened His Judaism

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(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It's Friday and time for StoryCorps. On the morning of August 10, 1999, 6-year-old Josh Stepakoff was at a Jewish day camp in Los Angeles when a white supremacist walked in and opened fire with a semi-automatic weapon. Josh was shot in the leg and the hip. Four others were wounded. One person was killed. Last year, Josh and his father, Alan Stepakoff, came to StoryCorps to remember that day. And as we approach the first Sabbath since the attack on the synagogue in Pittsburgh, let's listen to a bit of their conversation.

JOSH STEPAKOFF: I remember playing Capture the Flag. And I looked up and I saw somebody who was holding something at his hip. I thought it was a power drill. And then the next thing I remember is someone picked me up. And I just remember kind of bouncing in their arms. They put me down on the floor, then they covered me with blankets. And I just kept screaming, call 911, call 911.

ALAN STEPAKOFF: I remember sitting in the hospital room with you that evening. And his picture was on the TV. You looked up at it, and you said, you know, that's the shooter. Do you remember why you thought he might have shot you?

J. STEPAKOFF: I don't think it was until I was preparing for my bar mitzvah that I really started to think about the fact that it was because I was Jewish. And, you know, I know you and mom were so careful about making sure that I didn't stray away from my religion just because I was targeted for it.

A. STEPAKOFF: The last thing I wanted you to do was to be afraid of being Jewish. Some of it went back to my childhood. My mother had told me stories from the '40s and '50s. Now, all of a sudden, through my 6-year-old to experience this. You know, one of the most difficult things for me was I could never assure you I could protect you. You know, I could never put my arms around you and say, don't worry, Josh, I'll keep you safe because I couldn't.

J. STEPAKOFF: For me, as I started to reflect on why I was shot, I started to think of all of the good things that came from Judaism as opposed to this one terrible thing. I started to remember that it's my view on life. It's making sure that I treat everyone with compassion. And that was more of what Judaism meant to me, rather than a threat to who I was.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHRIS ZABRISKIE'S "TEMPERATURE OF THE AIR ON THE BOW OF THE KALEETAN")

MARTIN: That was Josh and Alan Josh Stepakoff' for StoryCorps. Their conversation was recorded in Los Angeles last year. Their interview will be archived along with hundreds of thousands of others at the Library of Congress.

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