by Court Booth

Last October peace-loving people the world over were again shocked to learn that hatred and easy access to military-grade weapons resulted in tragedy in a place of worship. We mourn the loss of eleven congregants at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue who were senselessly killed, and the law enforcement officers who were injured.

The scourge of gun violence in America has not left us untouched by its regular and violent intrusion into our lives. Kerem Shalom and Concord’s Jewish community was quick to respond, with a Solidarity Shabbat Vigil and Service a week later that brought together hundreds of area citizens to show support and heal. Kerem Shalom’s Rabbi Darby Jared Leigh presided over the standing-room only gathering.

Looking back, he is quick to share his gratitude for the outpouring of love and support. “The first calls I received, immediately after the tragedy, were from faith leaders including Rev. Hannah Brown, Rev. Howard Dana, Rev. Becky Gettel, and Chief of Police Joe O’Connor. Our community can resist hatred and promote goodness — it’s all relational. We became one in our grief and our mutual commitment to peace.”

Rabbi Darby graciously provided the text of his remarks from the Vigil, and we reprint several excerpts here. He makes it clear that progress is painfully slow, and that all minorities are threatened.

“While it is absolutely true that this was a despicable anti-Semitic attack on Jews, simply for being Jews and maybe for wanting to help refugees, I think it is incredibly important to acknowledge that this event did not occur in isolation. This tragic event must be seen in its larger context of a society in which events such as this one are occurring at with far greater frequency and consistently targeting the most vulnerable members of our society, those deemed as ‘other.’

“If we are going to reverse this disturbing trend of violent acts being perpetrated against minority communities we are going to have to do so from the bottom up, because we won’t be led in this direction by the top. So how do we do that? One way is we become allies for each other.

“The sheer numbers of people who have shown up this evening to welcome us, to mourn with us, to remind us that we are not alone and that they have our backs. This, showing up, is an important piece of what being an ally looks like. Being an ally means building relationships, building connections, going out of our way for others even when it’s not convenient and we don’t feel like it.”
Rabbi Darby reframed the words of minister and transcendentalist Theodore Parker, often quoted by Rev. Martin Luther King: “The truth is, the moral arc of the Universe bends in the direction that people bend it. We must bend it towards our view of Justice.”

And he concluded on a note of hope, “We will continue to build a world that we believe reflects our most deeply held values, a world of justice, a world of joy, a world of love and of life. L’Chaim. To life.”