Standing with Pittsburgh

November 5, 2018

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Across the nation, vigils, services, and town hall meetings have taken place since the horrific murders at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday, October 27. The same is true for Tidewater. In sanctuaries and in public spaces and in private schools, the Jewish community has mourned and received tremendous support from other faith communities and public officials. A sampling of those events, remarks made at them, and comments and letters received offering condolence, follows.

Tidewater Community Interfaith Gathering

United Jewish Federation of Tidewater held a community-wide service Wednesday, October 31 at the Sandler Family Campus. Several hundred people, including dignitaries and representatives
of all faith groups, attended.

Antipas L. Harris, founding dean of Urban Renewal Center, Norfolk, and co-founder, Hands
United Building Bridges, offered these remarks:

We have gathered here today to commemorate lives well lived and cut short at the hands of an evil
hearted bigot.

To borrow words from the Hebrew Bible, “It is hard to sing the Lord’s songs in this strange place!”

The Tree of Life Synagogue has been a symbol of hope in a dark and evil world. May the lives that died there last Shabbat germinate a more robust commitment in all of us to fight more intensely against incivility and out-right evil.

We are living in a time when indecent disparagement of historically marginalized people is normalized at a high level.

Now is the time for the faith community to build bridges of moral conscience, irresistible courage to love, and an indelible hope that, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “we will (STILL) be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony.” Jesus taught us that together we stand and divided we fall.

We cannot allow another tragedy rooted in intolerance to be a lethargic moment in history. They are happening frequently, and the bond of the nation is disintegrating before our eyes.
The Jewish Massacre in Pittsburgh must not fade into distant memory and become another footnote in history.

We must (in the words on the streets) “GET WOKE!” The ghosts from the past are haunting our nation in this generation. The time of apathy has past. Every American citizen should join in the movement of togetherness; loathe all forms of hate and violence that lurk in the shadows of the nation.

The future we leave for the children and future generations depends on what we do about this today!
The blood of those who were slaughtered at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, last
Shabbat is crying out to us. It is our task, our duty, our obligation to speak and act on behalf of those who cannot speak and act for themselves.
May the God of our fathers and mothers embolden and empower us to remain vigilant—not by power, not by might but by the Spirit of our God.

Rabbi Jeffrey Arnowitz of Congregation Beth El, offered a prayer.
An excerpt:

Our God and God of our Ancestors, Protector of the meek, Defender of the downtrodden, creator of all
people. We turn to you today in pain and anger, in sadness and regret, in confusion and bewilderment.

From the befuddled haze that has descended upon us since the terrifying attack in the Tree of Life synagogue on Saturday morning we call to you, begging for answers to our unending questions.

We are struggling to understand how such hate can exist in a world You created so full of love and wonder, struggling to understand how one man diseased with that hate could so callously and so easily take the lives of 11 Children of Israel so obviously devoted to You and to each other, struggling to understand how we can help each other stand strong and tall against evil so easily perpetrated.

And so in this moment of struggle we turn to you God, and pray for you to open our eyes once again to the beauty and the love all around us. Help us see the outpouring of love and support from so many individuals and communities who have reached out to share their care and kindness and resources. Help us to see that while senseless hatred and bigotry will rear its ugly head that there will be those
filled with the righteousness of Your love who will stand with us against it. Let them stand up now and let us stand with them to stamp out the scourge of hatred of all kinds once and for all.

We pray today for the welfare of the families and communities who mourn this day. We pray today for the heroes who rushed into danger on behalf of strangers, that they make a full recovery and that we may be inspired by their example. We pray today that all people who suffer attacks by those who hate, all those who have been truly victimized and who truly feel vulnerable, we pray that together we stamp out all hatred and bigotry and that together we are able to rise up in strength and dignity.

God of all people raise us all up today to serve You and to serve each other in true harmony. Enable us to shine the light of goodness into the darkness we sense creeping over us, so that the words of Your prophet will be realized, that “In all of My sacred mount Nothing evil or vile shall be done; For the land shall be filled with devotion to the LORD As water covers the sea.”

And let us say amen.

Letter to the Editor