A Community Vigil Heals My Heart

29 Oct

I feel better now than I did a day ago.

On Saturday a madman attacked the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh killing 11 innocent souls.  I was so sad.  My sadness increased when a good friend called and say, “How are you?”  And added, “You will feel worse and then you will feel better.”  She then informed me that her nephew was one of the Rabbis there.  Her nephew who I have meet and had Thanksgiving dinner with years ago when he was young.  But he was physically fine.  He was not one of the many wounded or killed.   It did not matter, my eyes filled and my heart pounded.

“You are right,” I said.  “I feel so much worse and so much better simultaneously.”

Today I feel much better.  Today my congregation, Kehilath Israel,  was the host for The Kansas City Community Vigil organized by the Jewish Federation and JCRB. Another board member and I served as official greeters as thousands people came together to fight hatred and stand for goodness.

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The media worked to present what happened to our community.

We arrived early.  We were there when the police checked everything. We saw the work they put into keeping us safe.  Security was important.  But honestly the love and warmth of the people coming into our sanctuary removed the stress of needing police and security.  We saw the members of the media come with their cameras and note books.  We saw our synagogue’s staff preparing for the crowds.

Over and over we said: “Welcome.  Thank you so much for coming. Thank you for being here.”  And again and again, people responded with a hug, or a handshake, or a smile, or saying “thank you,” or “of course” or “We had to be here.” “We are here for you.”

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People from every Jewish congregation came. From many churches, who wore their church name tags.  People came with crosses and Jewish stars, turbans and the collars of minister and priests. There were Hindus, Budhists, every religion, every color, every community was there!  I saw members of the Sisterhood of Salaam/Shalom, of which I am a member. Members of Grandparents against Gun Violence came out in their orange sweatshirts.  The Muslim community was there.  An Indian couple I have not seen in a decade came, and both embraced me in a warm hug. Thank you!

People reached out with love and kindness.  So many times, my eyes filled with tears as I felt their love to me and the community.  And I knew that the world was really a better place than I imagined a few days ago.  We welcomed thousands of people.  The estimate is that 3000 people attended. Thank you Kansas City!

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Hundreds of notes were written.

Many wrote notes to go to the congregations in Pittsburgh where the horror occurred.  We in Kansas know of this as our world was shattered almost four years ago when the JCC and the Village Shalom were the sites of hate killings.  We returned the love that we felt when communities across the world reached out to us.  We know how important those notes can be.

When the speakers began their presentations, my heart soared.  I will not mention what the Rabbis said, although what they said was important, I will focus on the others. Because what the others said meant so much to our grieving hearts.

First was my old neighbor, Art, who spoke for the Muslim community.  His words touched because I knew him and I knew it was so.  ” I speak from my heart,” he said. “We are with you,” he said. “Hate is destined to fail.”  He spoke of how the Jewish and Muslim communities work together.

We had a representative of the Catholic Church speaking for Archbishop Joseph Naumann, who told us “God is Love. And there is NO room for hate. We, the Catholic community, stand with you.”

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Congressman Emanuel Cleaver gave a rousing and heart_pounding speech, quoting Martin Luther King, Jr. :  “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  And “Silence sounds like complicity.”   “In Ecclesiastics it says, ‘There is a time to be quiet,’ he announced, “But this is NOT it.”  “We are all Americans. This is America!” He added pointing to all of us in the room.”Besides Congressman Cleaver, Congressman Kevin Yoder attended as did candidate Sharice Davids. Kansas Governor Colyer was also in attendance. I am sure many others were there.

Rev. Adam Hamilton from the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection was there with hundreds of his congregants. THANK YOU!  I felt the love from them as I welcomed them to our congregation.  He told us that there was silence during the Shoah, but that “We refuse to let that happen here.”  “We need to have the courage to speak up when you know something is not right.”  “We need to stand up!”

The Rev. Doctor Rodney Williams, told us that although America was currently living in a season of evil and hate, we will work together.  We will together fight against White supremacy. We will come together, as we fight back together in our unity.

And the crowd of thousands people were united in the message that hate will not win in Kansas City.  Hate and anti-Semitism, and anti any group was not going to win.  We would win because we will not remain silent.  And we remembered others who died because of hatred: The two who were killed October 24 in the Kroger’s supermarket, just for bing Black.

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Community Rabbis lit candles in memory of those who perished.

There was silence though as the community’s Rabbis lit a candle for each of the 11 murdered and then lead us in Kaddish.  The voices of the congregation came together to chant the pray for those who perish.

“May the One who makes peace on high, make peace for us, for all Israel, and for all who dwell on earth. And Let us Say, Amen.”

May their names be a blessing:  Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Jerry Rabinowitz, Cecil Rosenthal, David Rosenthal, Bernice Simon, Sylvan Simon, Daniel Stein, Melvin Wax, Irving  Younger.    And Maurice Stallard and Vickie Lee Jones who died at Krogers.

(As an aside, many more people attempted to come to the vigil. Traffic was backed up, parking lots were filled all around, it was a true city wide response of love against hate.)

3 Responses to “A Community Vigil Heals My Heart”

  1. Amy October 30, 2018 at 7:38 am #

    Our community event was very small compared to this (and we are, of course, a much smaller community), but it was also comforting and moving. Every time a non-Jewish person rose to speak—a minister, our Congressman, the mayor of Springfield–my eyes welled with tears and I got goosebumps. I have to keep reminding myself that this is not Nazi Germany and that here the majority of people and local government will not let us be killed. Thanks for your post.

    • zicharon October 30, 2018 at 7:41 am #

      I wanted to focus on something positive. I had tears in my eyes for hours as we were showered with support. It does help. And I don’t believe people will be complacent anymore.

      • Amy October 30, 2018 at 7:47 am #

        I think so also, and I certainly hope so.

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