Posted on November 13, 2018 by Rabbi Arnold S. Gluck
We gather tonight with hearts that are broken for the tragic loss of 11 precious souls, men and women who were murdered for the simple fact that they were Jews.
It was the deadliest attack on Jews in the history of our nation, but it was not an isolated event. It is only the latest in a rising tide of hate and anti-Semitism that threatens innocent lives of Jews, Muslims, people of color, immigrants, and all those who are labeled as “other.”
Our presence here tonight, your presence, makes a powerful statement. There is no “other.” There are no “others.” There is only “us,” brothers and sisters, human beings created in the image of God. Each and every one infinitely precious.
Jewish tradition teaches that “whoever destroys a single life has destroyed an entire world.” Each person murdered at Congregation Tree of Life in Pittsburgh was a world. They must not be reduced to numbers or statistics. They were a mother, a father, a beloved spouse, a sister, a brother, a friend. Each had a face, and each had a name:
Daniel Stein; Joyce Feinberg; Richard Gottfried; Rose Mallinger; Jerry Rabinowitz; the brothers Cecil Rosenthal and David Rosenthal; husband and wife Bernice Simon and Sylvan Simon; Melvin Wax; and Irving Younger.
We grieve with their families, with their community, and with the entire human family for their loss. May God comfort all who are bereaved and heal all who are broken in body and spirit.
There is much that needs to be said about why this happened. About how words of hate breed to acts of violence. About how ordinary citizens, including unbalanced people, so easily obtain weapons of war. And about the need for our leaders to abandon the rhetoric of fear, division and demonization that turns minorities and vulnerable people into targets of those who hate.
But tonight, we gather as people of faith to pray for our brothers and sisters whom we’ve lost and for the survivors and their neighbors. We gather to pray for healing, for peace, and for hope. We gather to say that as people of faith, as proud Americans, we refuse to succumb to fear.
We are resilient people. We will mourn our losses, take steps to secure our communities, and join together to stand against hate in every form. The most powerful antidote to hate is love, so let love be our banner and our guiding light.
As people of faith we turn to God in prayer. Be with us, O God, in this dark time. Strengthen us and calm our fears. Send healing to the broken hearted, hope to those whose lives have been shattered, and consolation to the bereaved. Cause the light of Your love to shine upon us to heal our wounds and remind us of the goodness of Your world and the blessing of this life You have given us. In the face of evil remind us never to despair of human goodness. Open our hearts to feel Your presence among us and within us.
To You, O God, we turn in our time of need. Renew our hope, give us courage, and grant peace to us and all Your children. Amen.
Our vigil tonight will include prayers and songs for healing, hope, strength and peace from seven different religious traditions, words of solidarity from civic leaders, and a call to action to stand up for the other.
Speaking for the Jewish community, I want to express how much this outpouring of love and support means to us. Your presence here with us reminds us that God’s love makes us one human family and gives us hope that we will learn to live in peace and harmony.
Editor’s note: To view the vigil on Livestream, visit https://livestream.com/OurBethEl/events/8434867
Jewish Federation of Somerset, Hunterdon & Warren Counties
Temple Beth-El, Hillsborough
Islamic Society of Basking Ridge
North Branch Reformed Church
Temple Sholom, Bridgewater
Shimon and Sara Birnbaum Jewish Community Center
St. John’s Episcopal Church
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Bridgewater
Temple Beth El, Somerset
Bridgewater United Methodist Church
Christ Presbyterian Church, Martinsville
Family Worship Center
First United Methodist Church of Somerville
Flemington Jewish Community Center
Garden State Sikh Association, Somerset
Garden State Sikh Association, Bridgewater
Temple Har Shalom, Warren
Holocaust and Genocide Institute at Raritan Valley Community College
Jewish Center of Northwest Jersey, Washington Township
Jewish Family Service of Somerset, Hunterdon & Warren Counties
Congregation Kehilat Shalom, Belle Mead
Congregation Knesseth Israel, Bound Brook
Middlebush Reformed Church
Muslim Center of Somerset County
Or Chadash, Flemington
Oscar & Ella Wilf Campus For Senior Living
Saint Joseph’s Catholic Church, Millstone
Saint Martin’s Episcopal Church, Bridgewater
Saint Mary Byzantine Catholic Church, Hillsborough
Sathya Sai Center of Bridgewater
Shree Swaminarayan Mandir – Loyadham, Raritan
Somerset County Asian-American Association
Somerset County Cultural Diversity Coalition
Chabad Jewish Center of Greater Somerset County
Chabad Jewish Center of Southern Somerset County
Chabad Jewish Center of Hunterdon County
Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Somerset Hills
United Reformed Church, Somerville
St. Bernard’s Episcopal Church, Bernardsville
Jam-e-Masjid Islamic Center, Boonton
Participating Civic Leaders:
Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin
Senator Kip Bateman
Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker
Assemblyman Roy Freiman
NJ Director of Homeland Security Jared Maples
Somerset County Freeholder/Director Patrick Scaglione
Somerset County Freeholder Mark Caliguire
Somerset County Sheriff Frank Provenzano
From Hillsborough Township
Mayor Gloria McCauley
Deputy Mayor Doug Tomson
Committeeman Frank DelCore
Chief of Police Darren Powell
Middle School Principal Joe Trybulski
From Montgomery Township
Councilwoman Sadaf Jaffer
Councilwoman Patricia Graham
Somerville Council President Granville Brady
Bound Brook Mayor Robert Fazen
Princeton Councilman David Cohen
Originally published in the November-December 2018 issue of the Shofar. For more issues of the Shofar, visit the Shofar archives.