Tonight we came together. 1500 people stood side by side to honor the lives of people we never met. The air was heavy with the weight of our sadness, our uncertainty, our collective pain, and most of all our fortitude in making a future in which people have the courage to stand-up for one another.
The eleven names of those lost at the Tree of Life Synagogue on Saturday were repeated multiple times. As they should have been. I have been overcome by this tragedy. I am actually surprised by how emotional I have been since Saturday. Instead of becoming desensitized by the ever elevating violence and vitriol I am becoming more sensitized to it all.
Tonight when I saw so many police officers I couldn’t contain my emotions. I don’t want this to be what my children see as how they have to be Jewish. But if this is what we face moving forward, I will proudly and willfully stand in a sea of armed guards to send the message that we will not be silenced by hate, ignorance, or fear. Too many have suffered too much for us to do anything other than keep moving forward. To keep showing up.
In all of this however, I am reminded always that we are not alone. Communities of color, LGBTQIA+ individuals, immigrants and refugees, people with disabilities, those living in extreme poverty, and many, many, many others in America and across the world face tragedy, injustice, and terror everyday. Every. Day.
There are names that never get read. There are communities that are never held up in the light the way we were tonight. For that I can only weep tears of guilt, sorrow, and shame. The Jewish community was given a beautiful gift tonight in Richmond and in communities across the country. We owe that gift back to the places and people who live in shadow.
Last week Maurice Stallard and Vickie Lee Jones we’re murdered in a Kroger parking lot in Louisville, Kentucky. They were murdered because they were black, they were there, and a sad, angry man believed he had the right to take their lives. They are no different, their deaths are no less tragic than the 11 people we lost in that synagogue. And yet there was no vigil for them.
I stood wrapped in the love and support of an entire community tonight. We sang our songs, heard our prayers, and welcomed the greater Richmond community into our space. I felt love. I felt community. I wondered what I would have felt if this tragedy had instead been met by silence. How deafening would it be to feel that alone, unseen, disregarded?
Tonight, as we mourned the loss of life and the further loss of our collective innocence, we mourned the existence of deep hate in our world, and the uncertainty that follows such horrific acts - we were blessed to be wrapped in love and community. I found myself asking why other minority communities aren’t met with the same compassion, unity, and bipartisan support.
I found myself both grateful and ashamed by this wealth of kindness and love. These days I find more questions than answers in most experiences.
Thank you to all those who shared in this beautiful event. Please continue to wrap one another in kindness. Please ask yourselves difficult questions. Please.