Yesterday, Brian and I went downtown for an Interfaith Prayer Service at The Temple in response to the shooting at the synagogue in Pittsburgh. The Temple was full - standing room only. Prayers, scripture readings, and songs expressed the hurt, as well as the hope that God would comfort those who mourned. There were also words from the mayor of Atlanta and many others calling an all present not to let hate win, but to always choose love.
One of the most moving moments for me occurred when a member of The Temple told of growing up in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, where the killings took place. He talked about the supportive character of the community and how what happened seems inconceivable. He told about two young men who were there every time the synagogue was open to welcome people. He surmised that they had probably warmly welcomed the man who later shot them. He also noted that Squirrel Hill was the neighborhood where "Mr. Rogers" (Fred Rogers) actually lived. So, when someone like this man talked about this being the synagogue in the neighborhood where he grew up, it all became both more real and more tragic.
The Rabbi of The Temple also shared that one of the victims, a dentist, was the relative of one of The Temple's families. He said that the man was nearing retirement and thinking about what he would do in the next phase of his life. He also volunteered his dental skills at a local Catholic charity, mostly to provide dental care for the poor -- especially immigrants and refugees.
The prayers spoken yesterday cried out to God for the loss of human life. The music was mournful. And yet there was a deeper sense that this event would not be the final word, and that fear would not be the end result. Many of the speakers felt the need to challenge those of us present to do something about ending this kind of thing now. I left there thinking about what I should do. At the very least, we should all be asking that question - and then do something so this kind of thing will finally end!