Posted on November 2, 2018 by Jenn Zaotpek
Last night, my husband and I drove to Ahavath Sholom, the conservative synagogue in Fort Worth, for the memorial service for victims of the mass shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Worriedly, I told my husband, “I sure hope there are people who will show up.” But nearly one thousand people showed up to the vigil last night.
I so often forget that I am not alone in wanting to extend kindness, care, and compassion to my fellow humans.
Ahavath Sholom is located in what I affectionately call “the religious cluster” in Southwest Fort Worth. Situated on rolling green hills stand several houses of worship, a large Methodist church, a non-denominational church and two synagogues near one of the local libraries.
When we arrived at the synagogue last night, the area was ablaze with sunsets glowing in all the reflections of the shiny cars. I took in the scene and breathed a sigh of relief, thankful that people came out en masse to support the Jewish.
Upon entering the synagogue, several Jewish men greeted us kindly with “shalom” and “thank you for coming.” The sense of community and concern for the loss of life was palpable, and my husband and I walked quickly to the back of the room and took seats when the ushers motioned to us to come forward.
The service itself involved many faith leaders sharing prayers, short reflections, and insights into the nature of faith as a source of strength, solidarity with the Jews, and the known and felt presence of God in the midst of suffering. The congregation’s beautiful cantor sang a few songs for us, her rich soprano voice piercing the air with pleas for peace and God’s care. My husband and I saw a multitude of faiths at the memorial: Jews, Christians, Catholics, and Muslims all gathered together, along with many others with some faith or of none. The service ended with the children’s choir singing Israel’s national anthem and a call from Rabbi Andrew Bloom to action, working to find unity among different peoples and blessings on all with good morals and a peaceful night’s sleep.
As a self-proclaimed religious nut, I loved every minute of it, from seeing the familiar Torah scrolls on the wall to the narrow stained glass windows and the Jewish art work on the back wall of the huge sanctuary. If I could get paid to attend religious services, then I would do it. I felt the presence of God most assuredly there as I feel the presence of God in recovery meetings, at my little Episcopal church, and in nature when I’m wandering around a mountain path or the shore of the ocean. The sentiment is not sweet; for me, it is true, the deepest truth that I know, which is God is present with us from birth till death and after death, whether or not we feel it, like it, know it, or sense it.
Is an interfaith memorial service enough to turn the tide of obscene vitriol and hate speech from the White Supremacy movement and the ostensible lack of concern from the president, which belies a deep hatred for people different than him? Perhaps this is the wrong question to ask and so the focus can be on something else, at least for now.
There is a saying by a Catholic priest (Richard Rohr) I adore and it goes something like this: when one small action toward goodness is taken, then the universe rushes in to help and promote joy and love and grace and mercy. Incarnations of the Divine only seek to promote goodness and more of it in our lives; I saw it last night at the outpouring of support for our Jewish brothers and sisters.
So I will relax and surrender to figuring out if the actions of one thousand people are enough to help, only that it does help and that is what counts in the end.