What do we do after this week is over, after the vigils, after the funerals, the memorial services, the donations to Tree of Life Synagogue, HIAS, ADL and other organizations?
First, we will remember the Holocaust as we memorialize Krystallnacht, the night of broken glass, November 9-10, 1938. Exactly eighty years ago, German Nazis launched a campaign of terror against Jews, burning synagogues and schools, smashing windows. Ordinary Germans stood by as their neighbors were terrorized.
Then we will celebrate Thanksgiving. It will be different from other Thanksgivings. We will give thanks for all that we have, and we will mourn that which we have lost.
But this year, Thanksgiving offers an opportunity to do something new, to do something that is perhaps different. We can reach out beyond the bounds of our own communities and begin new relationships, expand existing relationships, and learn about people who are different.
We can befriend strangers. We can support the rights of those who need our help, the poor, the immigrant, the refugee. We can ensure that no one stands by when their neighbors are terrorized, and we can stop that terror in its tracks.
This afternoon I stepped out of my apartment, away from the emails and phone calls and TV news, away from the grief and anger, into the sunlight. And I saw something that I did not expect. There in front of St. Barbara’s Greek Orthodox Church were two flags at half-mast, the American flag and the Greek flag.
When they decided to lower the flags, they didn’t know that a rabbi lived just next door. They didn’t know that I would break into grateful tears. They just went ahead and did the right thing.
The rabbi of Tree of Life Synagogue said during Pittsburgh’s vigil tonight, “Words of hate are unwelcome in Pittsburgh.”
Words of hate are unwelcome here too, are unwelcome where all people of conscience live and work. And that’s what’s next for us all – complete intolerance of hate speech of any kind, name calling of any kind, prejudice of any kind. Instead, we must go ahead and do the right thing, even when no one is watching.
Elliana Goldberg said:
I couldn’t agree with you more. HIAS is the organization that brought my parents and I to the USA in 1951. I will be forever grateful. AndI thank you and all the other Jewish leaders who are speaking out against hate.