I believe that every day is a holy day; but there was something especially sacred about being at the new Temple B’nai Israel on Thursday evening, November 1, along with other friends and neighbors from Londonderry and beyond, for a Vigil for Community Solidarity in the wake of the horrific killings at Congregation Tree of Life in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania the week preceding. In the architecturally stunning new home of the congregation in Easton, with their welcoming lights on and the doors wide open, every seat was taken and the walls were lined several deep with people standing. Outside, police blocked the entrance to the parking lot once it was filled, and people were parking in the nearby neighborhoods and across the highway and walking long distances to get there.
With participation from many clergy from the Talbot community and a combined choir from local churches, the service consisted of readings from sacred scripture, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim; readings from well-known writings and speeches, and responsorial prayers. The 23rd Psalm was sung in Hebrew by cantorial soloist Alan Haber who had traveled from New York to be there, and the choir offered solace and inspiration through their own glorious music, which we all know can transcend boundaries and “build bridges, not walls”. One of the songs by the choir was taken from words found written on a cellar wall in Cologne, Germany where it was believed Jews were hiding from the Nazis:
“ I believe in the sun even when it isn’t shining.
I believe in love even when there’s no one there.
I believe in God even when He is silent.”
Memorial candles were lit for each of those who died at the Tree of Life and for the Jeffersontown Two, who had been shot and killed in Jeffersontown, Kentucky. The service was also offered in remembrance of those who died at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, The Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, and the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Adding to the sacredness of this gathering were the silent prayers coming from the hearts and minds of those in community that evening. Rabbi Peter Hyman made sure there were moments of laughter as well. We are a resilient people.
I close with words written by President George Washington in a letter to the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, the first Synagogue in America, on August 18, 1790:
“May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land
continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants –
while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and
there shall be none to make him afraid.”