Last weekend, my synagogue was vandalized. It was likely a childish prank, but because of the content it is being treated as a hate crime both by the police and by the congregation itself. Coming in such scary times, it held echoes of the scapegoating that Jews have often experienced when conditions in their diaspora home countries are not optimal. In response to the incident, the Temple hosted a community gathering on the synagogue lawn yesterday, for people to stand together against hate and intolerance.
I have lately been singing on Sundays, so when I learned of this gathering, I asked the music director at the church where I sing whether I might be allowed to leave Mass early in order to attend. He was very supportive in giving his permission, but his support didn’t end there. At the end of choir rehearsal, he made the announcement that I would be leaving the service early, prefaced by a bit of background and the eloquent request that folks there keep my congregation in its prayers. I was feeling very low yesterday, and the audible gasp when Arthur mentioned the vandalism, and his and the choir’s kindness in recognizing its importance lifted me.
That lift was magnified when I arrived for the gathering. It was a brutally cold day, but the Temple lawn was filled both with congregants and with neighbors, friends, diverse clergy members from around the area, and well-wishers of many races and ethnicities. It was quite a big crowd, and it was touching to see so many people stand tall in solidarity with our congregation.
At first I didn’t understand the point of such a gathering, but from the time we joined our voices together to sing “Hinei ma tov uma na’im”* I began to see that the gathering was its own point. When people unite to stand shoulder-to-shoulder, it forms an answer to acts of vulgarity and cruelty. Not an argument but an answer. The answer is — it is good and pleasant to dwell together as brothers and sisters. Simply by being together, embracing both our commonalities and our differences, we are the change we wish to see.
* [Behold how good and pleasant it is to dwell together as brothers and sisters.]