Garret: Foster peace with words and actions

Community members including Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg, right center, celebrate the arrival of a new Torah near the rabbi's residence in Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, following a stabbing Saturday night during a Hanukkah celebration Monsey, N.Y. A knife-wielding man stormed into the home and stabbed five people as they celebrated Hanukkah in an Orthodox Jewish community north of New York City, an ambush the governor said Sunday was an act of domestic terrorism fueled by intolerance and a "cancer" of growing hatred in America. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

I celebrated Hanukkah recently with some Jewish friends in Memphis. Their welcome would have been unthinkable to an earlier version of myself. For 15 years, I lived a life full of hate, leading and recruiting white supremacists to white power groups in the United States and Germany. Before leaving the neo-Nazi movement in 2002, I would have been more likely to carry a torch than light a menorah.

I'm grateful that I found the strength to leave the white power movement - but the act of turning away doesn't immediately make someone a good person.

After leaving the extremist environment, I was still hard-wired to hate. I moved my family to another town to get a fresh start, and the only apartment I could afford was being rented by a Turkish Muslim man.