What Do We Say to Children?
Rev. Joe Connolly
“Let these words that I command today / be written in your heart. / Recite them, teach them diligently to your children….” — Deuteronomy 6:6-7a.
Newspaper articles and Facebook postings made many aware the interfaith community gathered at the Chenango County Courthouse steps on Thursday last to offer a vigil for peace. At the vigil we tried to address the current violence against different groups and, therefore, stand against hate.
I am sure many would say: the opposite of hate is love, is it not? And we are all for love? Are we not? So organizing a gathering against hate was a given.
However, that misses the point. The opposite of hate is not love. The opposite of hate is apathy. That is why we needed to gather, needed to take action, the action of shining a light on love which is neither apathetic nor indifferent. Love, itself, is an action.
Members of this church were present. But for those who were not let me offer a précis of how it unfolded— or at least what I remember. A caveat: some who were there may have different details or impressions. This is just my experience. (Slight pause.)
One count put the number of souls assembled at more than 100. At the beginning we heard the steeple bell of this church peal 13 times.
Dr. Tom Holmes started by referring to recent violence. 11 people were murdered while worshiping at a synagogue in Pittsburgh and two African-Americans died in Tennessee while shopping, murdered because of their race.
We were gathered, Tom said, to honor those who died in acts which were clearly hate crimes, American citizens murdered because they were Jewish or African-American. Ken Warner from the Norwich Jewish Center then read the names of the 13 who died.
Ken also recited the Kaddish, the prayer said as part of mourning rituals in the Jewish tradition. There was silence and then Mary Williams rang a handbell 13 times.
Susan Fertig from the Norwich Jewish Center offered context. She recalled how 2 ships carrying Jews seeking asylum, seeking safety, were turned away from our shores just before and during WWII. Many who were refused entry wound up in concentration camps.