We Shall Overcome after Pittsburgh

At an Interfaith Service in South Florida Hope Lit the Room

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Barry Silver leads L’Dor Va-dor (from generation to generation) in Boynton Beach where I live much of the time. Within 72 hours of the massacre at the Pittsburgh temple, he had pulled together a service led by the Interfaith Justice League to honor the 11 lives lost and address the shock of a close-knit community.

In his email explaining the purpose of holding the service Silver said, “Jews are strengthened by allies of all faiths as we combat anti-Semitism, racism and violence in all forms. “

The sparsely adorned synagogue  was filled with a diverse group ranging from young to old, white to brown and whatever sexual orientation cared to be there. I saw little old ladies and men pushing walkers to their metal folding chairs and young black men wearing yarmulkahs. About 25 percent of the full house was the temple’s regular congregation. 

When I arrived, Elaine Silver, the rabbi’s 93 year-old mother, was speaking of how and why we must prevail in the face of anti-Semitism. Later in the service, the Julliard graduate played Oseh Shalom which in Hebrew means “May we Bring Peace to all Living Things.” Her husband and grandson were in the audience

Leaders from the Christian, Muslim and Jewish religions spoke. A captivating speaker,  Shafayat Mohamed of the Darul Uloom Islamic Center, in Pembroke Pines, discussed how we are stronger together and with respect and love we will not just grieve but move forward. t

My mother was Catholic and my father Jewish and she was excommunicated when she married him. She took me to Saint Patrick’s often as a small child, we would light candles and she would say she wanted me to be Jewish. She died when I was a young teen and the Episcopalian minister in our small town and his family welcomed me into their home and church. 

My father remarried to a Jewish woman whose family was observant so my grounding in Judaism came later. Sitting in that temple, at that moment, I realized that an interfaith congregation was where I belonged, the bridge between religions was a place of great comfort. 

At the end, a young black man named Julius Sanna who is a pastor at Joy Church in Delray Beach, came to the stage with his guitar and sang “We Shall Overcome,” the anthem of the civil rights movement. As people of many faiths, ages and backgrounds joined hands to sing,  “We shall overcome, we shall overcome. We shall overcome some day. Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe. We shall overcome some day,” the fluorescent lights dimmed and hope lit the room.

When we danced we opened our hearts to the room.

I went to a synagogue in a Florida strip mall and found hope.

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