United Against Hate – a community service at Temple Beth Abraham

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by Linda Viertel – 

An overflow crowd of rivertown residents gathered together at Temple Abraham on October 30th  not only to commemorate the tragedy at the Temple of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh but also to celebrate community, the possibility of renewed life, hope and peaceful coexistence in troubled times.

Rabbi David Holtz welcomed the congregants to a service entitled, “United Against Hate: A Rivertowns Service of Healing, Peace and Solidarity.” And, participants reflected this ecumenical spirit. Pastor Torrey Robinson, First Baptist Church, read David’s Psalm 131; Linda Knapp of First Church of Christ, Scientist read excerpts from a Washington Post article describing the irony of Jewish doctors and hospital head caring for the shooter.

Ola Nosseir, founder of Our Common beliefs (an organization she formed to share the commonality between the Abrahamic faiths from the Islamic perspective) recited a short prayer and announced that the Upper Westchester Muslim Society Mosque pledged a $1000 donation to the Hebrew Immigration Aid Society (HIAS), an organization that was vilified by the gunman. Her closing words were, “We cannot let hate win.”

Andrew Ergas, Executive Director of the Shames Jewish Community Center (JCC) on the Hudson, emphasized the concept of “common-unity” as the root of the word community which, he hopes, will bring healing back to our society.

Rabbi Holtz thanked the entire rivertown community: the Tarrytown police came to Temple Beth Abraham before any calls were made, fellow clergy reached out immediately, and multiple individuals from other faiths called to ask what they could do for the congregation. He gave thanks to everyone “here” who understands that violence must be denounced. “This was not an isolated incident of hatred,” he said. All the shootings are “anti-someone, anyone who is different.” They display a fear of “the other,” which, he noted, could be described as un-American. The “American way,” he described, was codified by Congress in 1782 and placed on the Great Seal of the United States: E Pluribis Unum. “America is diversity,” he emphasized, “America is ‘E Pluribis Unum—out of many, one’”

Then, all rose to sing three rousing choruses of “America the Beautiful.”

“It is a tree of life to those who hold fast to it. Its ways are pleasant, and all its paths are peace.”

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