In the last few days, I have been mourning the loss of life at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Honestly, I cannot stop thinking about the loss of those individuals, practicing their faith, living their beliefs peacefully and then being killed for that belief.
As people of faith, to see any sacred practice so violated is unconscionable. It goes against all of our beliefs. For people in the US, a country built on freedom of religion and from persecution, this crime is anathema to our way of life in every way. If this were a single senseless act, perhaps the absolute absurdity would offer some hope, because it was so unexpected. Unfortunately, though it feels as if events have been building to this moment. Confrontation and hatred have been escalating nationally and in communities across this country and around the world. I fear for my children, and because of that fear I cannot let this moment pass without speaking out in love.
Kahlil Gibran wrote that “Love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation”, and although I did not know any of the individuals who were killed on Saturday, being separated from them in this world reminds me how much I loved them. I love them as I love every person on this Earth acting in peace and with generosity towards others. I love them as I love every soul striving to make their world better for them and for their children. I love them as I love every child born. With that love I must shine on in hope, loving in their memory and acting with an open heart and in strong belief of the great potential of people.
As I woke up today though, I wondered whether I could do that, but then I looked at the faces of my children. I thought about other stories of the past week, of my sister finishing an Ironman triathlon because of the kindness, generosity and love of a stranger, of the man in crisis delivered to a hospital by a restaurant staff-person because they happened to be the one that answered an errant call. I remember where I go to work – Catholic Social Services – where every day extraordinary staff connect with those in crisis and poverty and walk with them to permanent stability and long-term success. I see hope every day, and in honor of the lives lost we must sing the joy of that hope. We must remind everyone of the love being shared everywhere, and we must reach out to our brothers and sisters in our community, and on this planet, with a hand of friendship and love.
There are many ways to reach out a hand, I have heard about the #showupforshabbat movement which encourages everyone to join Jewish communities around world for Shabbat. Shabbat is part of Judaism’s day of rest on Friday evening until Saturday evening, and Jewish communities across the country are encouraging anyone — regardless of their faith — to come to synagogue with them. Perhaps that speaks to your heart. Perhaps it is something more private.
For me today, I wanted to I reach out my hand to all in this missive, and offer a prayer of love to the lives lost in Pittsburgh, for Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Jerry Rabinowitz, Cecil Rosenthal, David Rosenthal, Bernice Simon, Sylvan Simon, Daniel Stein, Melvin Wax, and Irving Younger.
We remember you in love and we will honor you by remembering and acting in love.