Stroudsburg Shabbat shows solidarity with Pittsburgh
STROUDSBURG -- When someone massacres fellow human beings simply for being of another religion, race or creed, it’s up to the community to come together and show that love and understanding conquer hate and ignorance.
This was the message of Saturday’s Solidarity Shabbat (Jewish Sabbath service) at Temple Israel of the Poconos in Stroud Township. The event was in response to a gunman spewing anti-Semitic statements while mass-murdering 11 people during an Oct. 27 baby-naming ceremony at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.
Residents, elected officials and members of various local organizations, all representing different races and faiths, joined Temple Israel’s congregation for the Shabbat. Cars filled the parking lot and lawn outside the synagogue while people packed the sanctuary inside.
Led by local vocalists Robin Smith, Roy Ramos and Melinda Feliciano, the gathering joined in the singing of the National Anthem, “Hatikvah (The Hope),” “America The Beautiful,” “Let There Be Peace On Earth” and “We Shall Overcome” in between addresses from various speakers.
″‘May the children of the stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants, while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid,’” read Temple Israel of the Poconos President Merle Turitz, quoting from George Washington’s 1790 letter to Rhode Island’s Jewish congregation.
“This is not a Jewish issue,” Turitz said. “This is a human issue. And I know that we will never ever let evil and senseless hatred win.”
A tearful Turitz read “What’s Your Name?,” a poem sent to her from the B’nai Harim synagogue in Pocono Pines. It’s about the newborn infant who was being named during the ceremony interrupted by the massacre at Tree of Life.
Reading the victims’ names at one point, Temple Israel of the Poconos Rabbi Baruch Melman said terroristic acts like the Tree of Life massacre will not deter the Jewish community from continuing to worship at its synagogues or practice its faith in public, as it has despite a history of being persecuted.
“We are proud to be Jews and proud to be Americans,” Melman said. “We are also proud of each and every one of you standing here with us today in solidarity as we mourn those innocents who were slaughtered. We’re sending a message to the world that love conquers hate, that unity conquers division, that hope conquers fear and that those of us of the Mosaic faith will remain a part of that beautiful mosaic that makes our country great.”
Take someone living a lonely life on the fringes of society, isolated from meaningful, positive contact with fellow human beings, Melman said. Add to this a misinformed, negative view of different races, cultures and religions.
Throw in mental instability, unreasoning anger, violent tendencies and access to weapons, Melman said. This is a recipe for incidents like what occurred in Pittsburgh.
Calling for society to prevent such further incidents by reaching out with love and understanding to those on the fringes, Melman noted the Shabbat in the Jewish faith is a day devoted to replacing loneliness and isolation with personal human relationships.
“The perpetrator of this crime has not only murdered innocent people in the name of hatred,” said Executive Director Mark Silverberg of the Jewish Federation of Northeast Pennsylvania. “He has insulted the blood of thousands of American soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice in defending our country’s founding ideals, which include the freedom of all people to practice their respective religions without fear. Let us honor the memories of those we mourn by continuing to lead lives defined not by hatred, but by all the good of which we are capable.”
Among other speakers were state and local elected officials, Christian, Islamic and Vedanta Hindu clergy and representatives of organizations promoting harmony, such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and Monroe County United.
Middle Smithfield Township Supervisor Annette Atkinson’s comments seemed to sum it all up.
“Hate will not have the last word,” Atkinson said.