I was out of town on business last week. This in and of itself it not unusual as my work with the Locks Law Firm over the last 40 years has required an extensive amount of travel. On this particular occasion however, I found myself in Hamilton, Ohio, a small community in Western Ohio, on Friday night. I was unable to get back home due to flight schedules until the following morning. This was not just any Friday night however, this was the first Friday night after the slaughter of congregants in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. There had been a call for Jews throughout the world to attend Sabbath services in a show of solidarity for the victims.
I found that there was a synagogue only blocks from my hotel and so I walked to Beth Israel on 6th Street for the 7:00 Friday night service.
I was warmly greeted by Rabbi Eric Slaton who explained to me that attendance at the service would be slightly larger than usual, and in fact there were approximately 35 to 50 people there when the usual Friday night attendance is approximately 15 to 20. As I looked around the Chapel I saw that there were a number of people who clearly had not been to a synagogue before and had to be instructed in some of the mores and traditions, such as when to stand and when to sit, that the prayer books are read from right to left, etc. The Rabbi took great pains to conduct a good portion of the service in English and also explained the various prayers and their meaning, so all could understand and participate.
I was struck by the fact that I was participating in a service which was being conducted virtually identically in every synagogue everywhere in the world. I was also struck by the beautiful sound of the two or three young children who were there, as their high pitched voices pealed like bells among the adult voices. Also, in back of me was the very gruff voice of an elderly attendee. As I looked around I saw that joined in prayer were individuals from the community of all races, religious backgrounds and ethnicities.
We all rose as one, tears streaming from our eyes, to recite the timeless words of the Jewish prayer for the dead, the Kaddish:
Yitgadal v’yitkadash sh’mei raba b’alma chirutei…
Glorified and sanctified be God’s great name, throughout the world….
I could not help but think that this is what America looks like, feels like, and sounds like. America is not a country based on nationalism which calls immigrants “snakes” or “animals” and refers to white supremacists as “fine people”. The America that I grew up in was built by immigrants and governed by leaders who did not think that “globalism” was something to be feared. While the vile invective spewing from the White House may not be the cause of the tragedy in Pittsburgh, it certainly made it easier for it to occur.