Closing words of One Voice, One Gd

Rabbi Philip Weintraub
Congregation B’nai Israel
November 1, 2018
Shared at One Voice, One Gd at Temple Beth El of St Petersburg

The last few days have been a blur. We have felt every emotion, every desire, every extreme--love, hate, the desire for peace, the desire for revenge, powerlessness, using our voices to cry out, wanting to be silent, feeling safer alone in the quiet of our homes or wanting to be out in a crowd of people together. Tonight we can thank our brothers and sisters of every faith who have joined us to show their support. We can thank the police, the sheriff's office for their watchful eyes. We can thank our elected officials for showing their faces and sharing their support. We can be grateful to know that our beautiful city is filled with love and hope for peace from every faith, every color of the rainbow, every part of God’s creation.

How do we close this powerful evening?
Do we need a universal message of love and peace, that together we will stamp out hate and violence and build a world of love, of goodness, of compassion olam hesed yibaneh?

Since Shabbat, I have received messages of support and love from every faith community in this city. Sharing the bimah today we see representatives of love and faith. We see the power of community, of coming together, of standing together in loss and triumph. We see that unity can, does, will, MUST triumph over division and hate.
Or do we need a particularist message speaking of the unique nature of anti-Semitism, how in virtually every society and culture, Jews have been singled out for animosity?

In Tablet Magazine, the Editor in Chief, Alana Newhouse, powerfully wrote,

insanity, and the power, of anti-Semitism is that everything that “the Jews” do, or a Jew does, provides further evidence of the reality and the malignity of the Jewish plot. We are archcapitalists and...sociali(sts). We are physically weak, yet also hyperaggressive and violent. We are ...right-wing, left-wing, sexual, asexual, straight, gay, light-skinned, dark-skinned, childless, over-breeders, publicly argumentative and nefariously invisible...

At the Passover Seder, we remember that in every generation, without exaggeration, every generation, there have been those who have hated us, oppressed us, desired the elimination, the genocide of the Jewish people. The murders in Pittsburgh were not an attack against religion in general, faith in general or even against Gd. This was an attack against Jews, against Jewish people, against Jewish bodies.

As a rabbi, I am an advocate for traditional Jewish mourning practices. I am grateful for the traditions of aninut, shiva, shloshim, yahrzeit. When we follow these traditions, we are given the space, the time, the support, the help of the community. Newhouse also shared, the laws of Jewish grieving are themselves a stark warning against isolation. Guests in a house of mourning are enjoined to bring food, and perform tasks that the mourner cannot perform for him or herself. The mourner’s job is to mourn, and to be seen mourning, inside their home, by the community. After seven days, the mourner arises and begins to resume, one by one, some aspects of normal life, according to a structure that lasts until the end of the year-long ritual of reciting the kaddish—a ritual that he or she cannot perform without a quorum of other people.

As Jews, we are required to mourn together. After shiva, we cannot sit in our homes alone, in the dark. After the week of grieving, we must enter our communities, must surround ourselves with people. We must be together. We must share stories. We must remember. We must cry out TOGETHER.

As we lit candles in their memory this evening, we brought light into the darkness. In the words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

In the book of Proverbs we read “the human spirit is the light of God.”(20:27) Within each of us, God implants a divine spark. Each of us has the obligation to tend this spark and fan it into a flame that will light up one’s own life and the lives of others. A lit candle can be snuffed out, or it can burn out, or it can kindle other candles. When the flame is passed on to others, the flame will continue to burn long after the original candle has been extinguished.

Standing here tonight, we are sharing the flame of these eleven souls. We link their memory with thousands of years of Jewish tradition. We count them among the martyrs, those who were killed simply for being Jewish, for offering prayer, for coming to synagogue on time, for welcoming their community. We count them with those massacred for their faith from the Roman Empire to the Nazi Shoah. Their memories will not be forgotten.

Let us bring forth their light through acts of lovingkindness.

Let us bring forth their light through solidarity, community, welcoming our neighbors, unlocking our doors, rather than barricading them.

Let us bring forth their light through donations in their names.

Let us bring forth their light through renewed prayer, through participation in worship together.

Let us bring forth their light through study and faith.

Let us bring forth their light through joyful song, through calling out to peace.

We conclude tonight with Oseh Shalom, May the Maker of Peace, bring peace from above, to us, to the people Israel, to all Gd’s children, to all Gd’s creation, Amen.
My view of seeing 1100 people coming together.

Zev Steinberg's powerful poem about all of the names can be found:


  1. Thank you for your closing statement. Your words of strength were much appreciated.


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