As I returned home from a very beautiful Shabbat morning, news from Charlottesville shattered the calm. I then felt heartbroken when word came of Heather Heyer's death by a senseless, hateful act of violence as she protested peacefully against the presence and values of neo-Nazis and other white supremacists--the image of that rampaging car ploughing through innocent people etched in my troubled mind. While I support the civil liberty of groups to assemble in peace, white nationalists and anti-fascists included, I am very troubled by the violence that erupted Saturday and the ensuing rhetoric that lent moral equivalence to the lethal bigotry we encountered--as though everyone present is guilty in the same way. I disagree. The responsibility for this act of white supremacist terror rests in the hands of the perpetrator and the angry role-models stoking his fiery, hate-filled world. Torah calls us not to hate our brothers and sisters in our hearts. This weekend we witnessed the results of what happens when one does.
But this Shabbat also gave voice to an inspiring form of free and non-violent expression at Congregation Beth Israel, the Reform synagogue in Charlottesville just a couple of blocks from the protests. There congregants sang songs of love, kindness and peace to counter the chants of hatred echoing outside, reminding us all that the Torah beckons us also to love our neighbors as ourselves. So, when we as human beings collectively practice this mitzvah, we build solidarity between us and others. Solidarity is a beautiful combination of mutual love, respect, and a deep understanding that we are ALL created betzelem Elohim, in God's image and full of intrinsic worth. In the words of my colleague Rabbi Tom Gutherz, the spiritual leader of CBI: "Solidarity is the answer to this hatred. If we stand against [the white supremacists] together, they will fail." (read more HERE)
On Friday evening, we will dedicate our experimental Kabbalat Shabbat to songs of peace, love and kindness. Please join the Spiritual Engagement and Ritual team and me at 6:30 pm for a little nosh and a short, musical welcome of Shabbat. Around 7:20 pm or so, we will sit and study Torah and seek some insight into where we go from here in building solidarity against hatred, violence and hate. At 8:00 pm, we will have a regular service in solidarity with the citizens of Charlottesville, the memory of Heather Heyer, and our rededication to betzelem Elohim and loving our neighbors. Please join us for any and all of these important experiences, and please take note that we'll say Kaddish as a community at the later service. Finally, a GoFundMecampaign created to support Ms. Heyer's family had surpassed $200,000 as of Sunday evening. Please feel free to direct some tzedakah in her blessed memory HERE. And, if you just need to talk, please let me know. I am here for you, ready to listen: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Make it a day of blessing and be a force for good!