The Transylvania Times -

Faith Community Gathers To Address Synagogue Shooting - Brevard NC


November 5, 2018

Last Wednesday, Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Brevard filled with people of many faiths who came to be a part of the Interfaith Service of Remembrance for the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, which left 11 people dead and seven injured on Saturday, Oct. 27.

"We gather here today out of love for our country, and for the blessings and freedoms that have been bestowed upon it," said Father Shawn O' Neal, the first who spoke. "Unfortunately, we gather today because one placed hatred before freedom, stole the lives and ruptured the freedom of those gathered together at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh."

Pastor Mary Shore, with Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, followed O'Neal.

"I'd been thinking all week of how we get from normal life to senseless violence and mass murder, and then on Saturday as I sat with my computer open working on Sunday's sermon, I watched as the reports came in," she said. "I feel horrified and mystified by such violence and terribly sad for all the suffering that's being endured by the families and friends and neighbors of those who were killed. I also feel two things in equal measure. I feel like crawling under the bed and hiding out, planning for the apocalypse, but at the same time I feel like gathering and hugging people and being with all of you, and wonder if that's maybe why we are all here. We have these feelings together."

Shore said that part of the work Christians must do today is to acknowledge their history of violence, and "disavow" it, returning to what Jesus said, "Love one another as I have loved you.

"Much too often, and with disastrous results through history, followers of Jesus have failed to answer this call. We have sinned and fallen short of the glory of our God," she said. "Today, we admit this and pray to God to create in us clean hearts and new spirits. No one can cure hate with hate. Only love can cure hate."

Howard Rock, president of the Brevard Jewish Community, then spoke.

"We are so gratified at the turn out today," he said. "I just want to say how much it means to us to have all of you here with us. I'm also not a rabbi. I'm a historian, so I'm going to speak as a historian."

He said that American Jews have a long history in the United States of success.

"Since the first Jews arrived in new Amsterdam in 1645, they have grown largely through immigration to a community of nearly 6 million, less than 2 percent of the American population," he said. "They were able to do this because (for) the most part Jewish immigrants found an open society. In return, Jews have found distinction in law, medicine, science, finance, journalism, the arts and much more. Many of our Nobel Laureates are Jewish."

Unfortunately, he added, recent events have reminded the world that anti-Semitism still exists.

"Anti-Semitism in America has been strongest in times of national stress," he said. "During the Civil War there was an explosion of anti-Semitism. During the Great Depression, Father Coughlin broadcasted hatred of Jews to millions on radio, while the nation's greatest industrialist, Henry Ford, widely distributed the fraudulent protocols of the Elders of Zion that accused rabbis of plotting to take over the world."

Rock's own father, he said, could not purchase a plot of land in a Cleveland suburb in the 1940s because he was Jewish, he said.

"Recently, it has become more common in our nation," he said. "The number of anti-Semitic incidents increased by 57 percent in 2017 compared to 2016. I think we all know that the growth of anti-Semitism is a sign of danger in modern society. The great English writer C.P. Snow observed over 50 years ago that civilization is hideously fragile, and there is not much between us and the horrors underneath - just about a coat of varnish."

Rock said the murder of 11 innocent Jews "exposes once again how fragile our civilization is."

"In the 1930s, Germany, the most civilized country of the west, found itself at the will of an ego maniacal but popular dictator, obsessed with anti-semitism, who led us into World War II, and the death of 60 million people," he said.

Rock paused, then asked the congregation, "What keeps us from the nightmares of Hitler, Stalin and other brutal regimes?."

Reason, he answered, which, he defined as the belief in truth and the rejection of lies.

"It is openness to science and the ability to question long-standing beliefs that have proven false," he said. "It is tolerance - tolerance of the other, whether that be of race, religion, sexual identity, ethnicity or nationality."

He said there are some nations that have, once again, "succumbed to the allures of populism and authoritarian government that reject the values and safeguards" of freedom.

"Is our own country next?" he asked. "Our society is tragically divided and polarized, as it has been only a few times before. The most notable similar area was the 1850s, and we know what followed."

To heal, he said, citizens must remind themselves that the U.S. is a nation of immigrants who have been "generous" to refugees, "many of whom were Jews and Catholics, mothers, fathers, grandfathers and grandmothers."

"Will the loss of 11 innocent Jews on October 2018 be the harbinger of terrible things to come, or will it be a harsh warning that we are able to heed?" he asked. "This is now an open and a very fateful question."

Tommy Kilgore, president of the Transylvania County NAACP, also spoke.

"Once again, our hearts are broken, and once again, innocent lives have been senselessly taken," he said. "Once again, the loss of loved ones burns holes in the hearts of those who mourn."

No more, Kilgore stated.

"I say no more," he said. "It is time to make our voices known, to make our votes known, to our leaders, our officials, our country and our world."

Ilene Tomkins Gillespie, pastor of the Unitarian Universalists of Transylvania County, then sang "Mourning into Dancing" by Debbie Freedman.

The Rev. Rob Field, pastor for the Center for Spiritual Wisdom, called for a moment of silence.

Norm Bossert, the last to speak, said he was "overwhelmed" with the amount of people who came.

"I love living in Transylvania County, and if you want to know why, all you need to do is take a look around and you will see the brotherhood in this room, the kind thoughts,and the good hearts in this room," he said. "Acts of violence happen here in the U.S. What happened in Pittsburg isn't unique to the Jewish family. It may interest you to know that almost every single day in the year 2016, there were 43 murders in the U.S. When I think of those 43 people, I think some may have been a child, some a father, some a mother, a cousin, a brother. Hate crimes and violent crimes are happening in the U.S. This year alone there have been 294 mass murders."

Bossert said the Jewish community is often reminded of the 6 million who perished during the Holocaust.

"In this particular crime in Pittsburgh, there is not a Jew I know who didn't reflect and say, 'Not again, never again. Enough is enough,'" he said. "There is entirely too much hate, and we are the weapons that can destroy that hate, that can bring it down, that lay it low.

"When we lock arms together, when we walk together, when we pray together, when we laugh together, when we eat dinner together, when we walk past each other in the streets, we can remember each other as human beings, not Jews, not Christians, not Unitarians, not black, not white, Asian. We can remember that we are each one of us, one at a time, an essential piece of life."


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