November 11th, 2018
By: Rev. Diane Rollert
Last week, I spent seven days in Toronto at the Parliament of the World’s Religions. One of the highlights was an invitation that I and the other Unitarian Universalist ministers attending the parliament received on behalf of the City Shul, a synagogue in downtown Toronto. We were asked if we would please come to form a circle of peace around the synagogue, in response to the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA.
Eleven Jewish worshipers had been massacred in Pittsburgh the Saturday before, on October 27, by a man who shouted that he wanted to kill as many Jews as he possibly could. The pain, grief and horror were still so raw in everyone’s hearts.
The City Shul is a small synagogue that rents space at the Bloor Street United Church. It was early when we arrived, the chilliest morning of the week. At first we were just a few, but with time, the circle grew and we succeeded in surrounding the building. We were joined by the members of the Bloor Street church, along with Muslim neighbours and others. As members of the City Shul congregation arrived, they greeted us with the words “Thank you so much for being here. Shabbat Shalom.” Before their worship service began, Rabbi Elyse Goldstein and other leaders of the congregation walked the perimeter of the circle, thanking us with tears in their eyes.
Clergy and community representatives were invited inside for the service. It was an incredibly moving experience. The congregation was emotionally overwhelmed by the number of guests who filled their sanctuary. After prayers were sung, local dignitaries and visiting clergy spoke. A local imam said that he and his community were there because the synagogue had supported them when their mosque had been attacked.
The memory of Maurice Stallard and Vickie Jones was lifted up as well, two African Americans who were shot in Louisville, KY, the week before, by a man who had intended to attack an African American church. Finding the church closed, he mercilessly executed two strangers in a grocery store, simply because of the colour of their skin.
The Rabbi Goldstein spoke powerful words as she honoured the dead in Pittsburgh.
Read the full text here.