In Solidarity with Tree of Life Synagogue
Dear Saint Paul Friends,
My heart, like yours, has been broken by the loss of life at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and the expressions of hate shown to our Jewish siblings this past weekend. The unspeakable violence that claimed the lives of eleven members of the congregation has left us shocked and deeply troubled. We mourn and grieve with all those impacted by this violence in some special ways.
First of all, the killer targeted Jews whose synagogue partners with the refugee organization HIAS (Hebrew Immigration Aid Society) to build an inclusive society that welcomes refugees, people who contribute so much to our nation’s fabric and economy. Many houses of worship of different faiths similarly welcome refugees. These values have always underpinned our nation and must continue to do so. Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS) has resettled over 500,000 refugees and migrants over the last 80 years. HIAS has been at work the last 130 years and today 90 % of its clients are not Jewish and include Muslim refugees. Today our planet has some 65 million refugees.
We stand in solidarity with Tree of Life out of love and compassion. We are also in solidarity as a congregation that has firsthand experience resettling dozens of unaccompanied refugee minors and young adults from South Sudan in a partnership with Lutheran Social Services of New England beginning in 2001. Shortly after this resettlement began Saint Paul was targeted by the National Alliance, a white supremacist group that dropped thousands of leaflets on Arlington doorsteps just days before 9-11. Later we provided a group home for undocumented Central and South American youth.
We also stand in solidarity as Lutherans, remembering that in 1994 our denomination publicly rejected Luther's anti-Semitic writings, saying "We who bear his name and heritage must acknowledge with pain the anti-Judaic diatribes contained in Luther's later writings. We reject this violent invective as did many of his companions in the sixteenth century, and we are moved to deep and abiding sorrow at its tragic effects on later generations of Jews." Almost 25 years of healing have happened but there is more to be done.
During worship on Sunday, we will continue to pray for the Tree of Life congregation and include in Sunday's bulletin the names of those who died. I trust and encourage all of you to reach out to Jewish neighbors and friends with sympathy and prayer. We want to do whatever we can to express our concern and tangibly act against such hate and anti-Semitism.
After 9-11, the late Fred Rogers who lived near the synagogue, was asked to film a public service announcement. "We are all called to be ‘Tikkun Olam,’ repairers of creation.’’ Rogers was a Presbyterian minister and used a Hebrew phrase that is part of a Jewish congregational prayer, calling for acts of kindness to improve the world. “Thank you for whatever you do," he said, "to bring joy and light and hope and faith and pardon and love to your neighbor and yourself.’’