From the time I heard about the horrific massacre at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday morning, the universe has been nudging me to pay attention to a larger picture. I heard the terrible news between our Shabbat morning service and Shabbat Tisch (our Torah discussion). By the time Tisch had ended all of us who gathered that morning began to feel the weight of the tragedy that befell our fellow Jews.
As I left Temple I noticed two police cars parked across from the building. I had never seen any police cars parked so close before. So, I walked over to the officer in one of the cars, introduced myself and he told me that was here for us — making sure we were safe. As I thanked him, I realized how the simple gesture of his presence unexpectedly touched me.
Throughout the day I received various communications from friends and colleagues — none who are Jews – to let me know that you (our Micah community) and me were in their thoughts and prayers.
When I arrived at Micah for our Sunday morning religious school session, the people of PHUMC were there as they usually are on Sunday mornings. I am always greeted by them on these Sunday mornings as they make their way to church and me to Temple, but today was different. So many of them made a point to walk over to me, look me in the eye, hold my hand or even hug me … and let me know that we (us Micah folks, we Jews) were not alone in our shock, sadness and outrage.
And then tonight I joined (it must have been) thousands of fellow Denverites – not only Jewish Denverites – to gather for a vigil of remembrance and support. Again, I found myself deeply moved by those who spoke – particularly those speakers who are not Jews. Mayor Hancock; Governor Hickenlooper; Qusair Mohamedbhai, the General Counsel for the Colorado Muslim Society (who made sure to make clear that we was speaking for 75,000 muslims in Colorado); Dilpreet Jammu, leader of the Sikh community and Board President of the Interfaith Alliance; Reverend Amanda Henderson, a Christian minister who is the Executive Director of the Interfaith Alliance. All spoke with the clear, fervent message that this massacre perpetrated on the Jewish community, is not a Jewish problem, but a human problem.
As I left the community vigil, I visited briefly with the Dr. Tom Wolfe, President of Iliff School of Theology. He wanted to share with me the way in which he tried to bring comfort and perspective to his Iliff community – he told them about us!
“Just this past week, Iliff was a co-sponsor for the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado’s annual Force for Good Awards. Because of recent events, I am moved to lift up the jointly shared sanctuary initiative of Park Hill United Methodist Church and Temple Micah. Their work brings clarity that leads to goodness. These two congregations of different faiths, respectful of each other, worship according to their own traditions under the same shared roof and together join their social justice commitments to provide sanctuary for a woman and her family. Their distinct yet interactive lives provide a stark contrast to this week’s barrage of suspicious and presumptuous rhetoric about the people of the caravan, attempted pipe-bombings, the massacre of Jewish congregants, and murders at the hands of a member of a hate group.”
And so, as I write you in my role as your rabbi … seeking to offer comfort and perspective for our community … I will share with you what I think the universe is not so subtly saying to me: There is good, there is love, there is an abundance of the divine in our world. It does not take away the experience of loss or suffering … nor does it mean that we may not feel threatened or vulnerable. What it means is that while we feel the emotions that so genuinely flow from the massacre of our fellow Jews … we cannot stop from working hard to see manifest in the world our most precious values and truth. We cannot stop from seeking out and cultivating the network and relationships with Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, atheists, brown people, white people … any people … who share this human problem and this divine vision.
We will continue to have the serious conversations – that have been an ongoing part of our relationship for the past 5 years – with our partners at Park Hill United Methodist Church about how we continue to make our shared space a safe and secure one. We will also continue to do the work – with them and with whoever we need to – to imbue our society with justice, compassion and peace.
When I began my morning with our Religious School community this morning, we spoke about the abhorrent violence at Tree of Life on Shabbat morning. Before we sang a prayer of healing for all the families impacted by that violence, we talked about what would keep up safe in the future. We acknowledged that in this moment we certainly felt that more locks on the doors or people to protect us might do the job. And yet, I suggested that the real antidote to the fear and hatred and what manifests from it … was abundant in how our community spent last Sunday. We gathered with Park Hill United Methodist Church and we sang and we prayed and we learned together. We celebrated how in a world that seems to fear the other, we seek to respect the other. We celebrated how in world that seems to hate the other, we seek to love the other. We celebrated how in a world in which those who stand on either side of the aisle see working together as weakness, we witness that by the mere fact of working together how strong we are.
The universe is speaking to us … let us listen, let us hold on to one another and let us respond together.