There is the immediate personal disaster of eleven lives destroyed, others wounded, families and friends bereft, a neighborhood traumatized. To all these, The Shalom Center as a body and I individually send blessings of swift refuah (healing) for the wounded, deep respect and grief for the dead, and loving care for those bereaved.
There is the broader disaster of shock to the American Jewish community, until now so profoundly joyful to have found full acceptance in America these last several generations, after millennia of persecution elsewhere and elsewhen.
Some of us took from that safety acceptance in becoming affluent, even wealthy, even powerful. Some of us took from that safety acceptance in becoming social critics, progressives, even radicals.
Less comfort as critics than as powerful, of course – but comfortable that all the clauses of the First Amendment affirmed our worth as Jews, as sacred fringes on conventional assumptions, as challengers who could wrestle not only with God (as our name “Yisrael” describes us) but with the rigidified habits of ourselves and others.
And even worse, the broader disaster of facing an American government that our immigrant forebears who came here for freedom’s sake could not have fathomed:
A government honeycombed with white supremacism, moving into neofascism, calling forth from the shadows into boastful visibility those who concoct bombs to enforce their racism, who can openly revel in their contempt for women, who can turn hatred of foreigners into willingness to rip babies from their mothers’ breasts, who can turn their greed for hyperwealth into willingness to torch the Earth that is our common home, our only home -- and who can turn their latent anti-Semitism into mass murder.
How do we respond to these layered levels of disaster?
There is a time to wail and a time to pray.
There is a time to sing in sadness, and a time to sing in solidarity, and a time to sing in both: --
There is a time to learn, and a time to act.
There is a time to act by marching bold, and a time to act by sitting-in.
There is a time to VOTE.
Yes, we still have time – but not very much – to change this government controlled by hate-mongers and their toadies.
Already millions have been casting early votes. Nine days from today, the Congress will be reshaped – or not. Or partly.
Either for the first time this corruptly rotten government will face a check upon its power – or its power will be authorized, unchecked.
Either we prepare for more tears as our goverrnment encourages more bombers, more bullies, more killers --
OR we change our government, by voting in great numbers:
We have but eight days to Grow the Vote – Grow it numerically, and Grow it in wisdom.
Long ago, the story tells us, at the edge of the Red Sea, the People paused in terror of the choices that they faced. Moses lifted his staff and prayed to God, the Breath of Life.
And God said, “Moses! My people are caught between Pharaoh’s Army behind and the tumultuous Sea ahead – and you stand there, piling prayer on prayer? Tell My People to move forward!”
The People moved -- became truly a movement into freedom. The future opened, and the Breath of Life became a Hurricane of Change.
So may it be for us.
Four months ago, The Shalom Center began preparing teachings and symbols for "Share Sukkot: Grow the Vote!" We bumped into several unexpected concerns: "As a nonprofit, we can't do that." (Yes we can, as long as we don't name a specific candidate or party to support.) "There's a wide spectrum in our congregation; some people might get mad." (Maybe the agreement is broader after Pittsburgh. And who can oppose encouraging people to vote?) "Blacks and Hispanics may have a stake in this election, but we don't. We're fine, regardless."(Gulp. Yeah, right.)
In the Jewish community, after Pittsburgh there should be no synagogue, no havurah, no Hillel, no organization of any sort that holds back from Getting Out The Vote and teaching the issues that grow from millennia of Torah.
And in the other communities of ethics and of Spirit, the same. We stand together -- Black churches, Muslim mosques, Sikh temples, Jewish synagogues have all been desecrated, violated. In all of them, blood has poured into the sacred vessels.
On Saturday night, I spoke for and to a vigil / action rally of about 300 Jews and other people in a Philadelphia park, allies in this moment of disaster and beyond. We persevere. We mourn. We organize. We speak the truths we are able to discern.
We need your help to do that.
Please help The Shalom Center continue our work to heal our society’s deep wounds by clicking on the maroon “Contribute” button on he left-hand margin of this page. On three pillars stand the future: Truth, Justice, and Peace. May each of us reach out to make them strong, and so win also for ourselves the blessings that they bring for all the world -- Arthur