Sent With Love: Prayers, Messages of Support, and Pledges for the Tree of Life Community
On October 27, 2018, while Shabbat morning services were being held in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, anti-Semitism and gun violence created another mass shooting in our country. Our communities were in shock and mourning for the eleven people who were murdered, the seven who would live, and the hundreds more whose trauma continues to come in and out in waves.
At Auburn, we felt called to action. We knew that our community needed an outlet and in partnership with our beloved Auburn Senior Fellow, Valarie Kaur, and the Sikh Coalition, we built a space for reflection and action. We solicited prayers, messages, and pledges to action on the Groundswell platform. We received thousands of responses from around the world.
On Monday, December 17th, 2018 Auburn’s President, The Rev. Dr. Katharine Rhodes Henderson, joined the Greater Pittsburgh Sikh community to deliver these messages of solidarity at a private interfaith gathering at the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.
Please find the prayers and pledges below and continue to work with us to end anti-Semitism, end gun violence, and heal the world with love.
Faith Leaders Support the Survivors at Tree of Life Synagogue
The Rev. Dr. Katharine Rhodes Henderson, President, Auburn Seminary
To Our Beloved Neighbors at the Tree of Life Synagogue:
On the day of the of the attack, I wrote the following words: “We stand in solidarity with all our Jewish friends, neighbors and loved ones across the country and around the world. You are not alone. And today we shed hot tears of anguish and anger and pledge to end the scourge of anti-Semitism in all its forms.”
Since then, these 1,722 people from every background have joined me with prayers, messages of love and support, and pledges to stand up, stand by you, and work against hate in all its manifestations in their own communities.
In this book you will find people carrying this sorrow with you, yet determined to honor those who have died by living for the day when all will understand that we belong to one another.
Rabbi Justus Baird, Dean, Auburn Seminary
Anyone who picks up this book to browse the words that were sent from all over the world knows how outrageous it is that a book like this even exists.
And no one really knows the proper response to such a tragedy as the massacre at Tree of Life synagogue. The killer not only murdered eleven souls. He also stabbed the heart of America’s relationship with Jews.
Jewish tradition teaches that in a house of mourning we hold our words until spoken to by the mourners. And yet, words are often what Jews turn to in times of mourning. We recite Psalms, we say the kaddish, we retell stories. It is in the spirit of sharing words of comfort that hundreds of people of faith and moral courage wrote these prayers and notes, collected in the weeks immediately after October 27. If any ray of light breaks through the shattered vessels of this moment, it may be coming from the broken hearts of the countless people who witnessed hate and have responded with love.
Satjeet Kaur, Executive Director
To our sisters and brothers at the Tree of Life Synagogue,
We share in your pain, our Jewish sisters and brothers, and we share in your grieving. I join Sikhs around the country who have sent in their messages to testify to this fact and to let you know that we will continue to stand with you, build with you, and push for change with you.
When we learned of the tragedy on October 27, 2018, we felt the same pain we felt the morning of August 5, 2012. Six years ago, a neo-Nazi entered a Sikh place of worship in Oak Creek, Wisconsin and opened fire on the congregation. He murdered six innocent worshippers in cold-blood and injured several others before taking his own life. The hateful murders at the Tree of Life Synagogue transported all of us back to that very moment.
Our team at the Sikh Coalition received countless calls from Sikhs asking what they could do to They felt agony for their Jewish sisters and brothers. No community should ever feel targeted, let alone at our places of worship – a place where we should feel at peace and secure. We have felt this pain all too often – Charleston, Oak Creek or Pittsburgh – and it is absolutely not acceptable.
Our Sikh faith teaches us to always stand with those who are oppressed. As saint-soldiers, we believe it is our responsibility to stand for justice, no matter what the consequences might be. As racism, misogyny, white supremacy and anti-Semitism festers in America, our community will continue to step forward to ensure that hate has no home here. We want to instead embrace the best of our society and of our humanity, and we want everyone to know that we will continue to champion our shared values, of love, service, and justice.
We stand with you in this period of deep grief, and we stand with you all as your community rebuilds. As those who carry hate in their hearts continue to build walls of exclusion, we will continue to tear down those walls of difference and build bridges. We will confront hate of all kinds, no matter what form it takes and who it intends to target.
On behalf of the entire Sikh Coalition organization and with Sikhs nationwide, we are in this together.
In Chardi Kala (eternal optimism).
Pardeep Singh Kaleka, Oak Creek, Wisconsin Sikh community leader. Son of Satwant Singh Kaleka, Author of “Gifts of Our Wounds”
The world would say we are forever linked by our shared misery. We however know we are instead joined by our shared sacrifice, a sacrifice to a much greater cause.
On August 5, 2012 a white supremacist gunman walked into our Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin and murdered six people before taking his own life. The shooter was draped in his ink of hatred and tattooed by his affiliation to his cause. His cause was one of separation. The shooter that day was of the world. A world that had taught him that some human beings are worth less than other human beings. A world that taught him that that the physical realm trumps spiritual connection. A world that taught him that his pain can be taken out on another if one can deem the other as a threat. A world that convinced him that power is found at the end of the barrel of his smoking gun and that bullets can rob a person of both life and will.
His misguidance was because he was of the world. Our communities know better because we are not of the world; we are of the spirit. We know that there is a much greater purpose for our suffering and there always has been. This spirit is one that links our gurdwara in Oak Creek to your synagogue in Pittsburg to a church in Charleston to all those who suffer the sting of hatred and violence.
When the Sikh community received news that day of Sabbath and understood that our Jewish brothers and sisters had suffered the loss of eleven precious lives in their place of sanctuary, it reopened a deep wound within us. We were triggered, and it was our reaction to express condolences, sympathy, and solidarity. To offer prayers for the communities and families of 97 year old Rose Mallinger, 88 year old Melvin Wax, 86 year old Sylvan Simon, 84 year old Bernice Simon, 75 year old Joyce Feinberg, 71 year old Daniel Stein, 69 year old Irving Younger, 66 year old Jerry Rabinowitz, 65 year old Richard Gottfried, 59 year old Cecil Rosenthal, and 54 year old David Rosenthal. For it was in sadness that we were reminded of the existence of evil. An old ancestral enemy that has been here since the beginning. Growing as the human spirit becomes disconnected from itself. A lack of spiritual wholeness within us that prevents the lack of Oneness within all of us.
It is in the worst of times that we are reminded of the strength of the human spirit, and as we witnessed your community rise from the ashes time and time before, we were once again blessed to attest to the testimony of the healer, the shepherding of love, the proof that the kindred spirit will never succumb to the will of division. That we will not be separated from ourselves, our brothers and sisters, and we will never be separated from the divinity that exists within us all – a primal Oneness that knows no time, no space, and knows no wounds that it cannot ameliorate. The Sikh community and the great human family stand in solidarity with you now, today and always, and we are forever grateful for your sacrifice to the relentless rise in the in the divine spirit in all.
“Nanak Naam Chardi Kala, Tere Bhane Sarbat Ka Bhala”
Through the recognition of the divine spirit and the peace and prosperity of all, we shall be relentlessly optimistic and courageous against the evils of separation.
Pittsburgh Sikh Gurdwara (Tri-State Sikh Cultural Society)
The Greater Pittsburgh-area Sikh community extends our unconditional love and support during this time of unbearable grief.
Every Sikh in America remembers where we all were on August 5, 2012 when a gunman with white supremacist ties entered a Sikh gurdwara (house of worship) in Oak Creek, Wisconsin and murdered 6, injuring several more.
We will never forget that day, just like we will never forget October 27, 2018 and we stand forever at the ready to support the Tree of Life Congregation and the larger Jewish community in Pittsburgh.
In this darkness, we hope that you find some solace and strength in the love, support and solidarity that comes from Americans nationwide. As Sikhs, we mourn with you, we grieve with you and we pray with you. We are here to support you in any way you need.
Chardhi Kala (eternal optimism).
In Solidarity with the Tree of Life Synagogue, We Pray and We Pledge!
From Oak Creek to Charleston and Birmingham to Pittsburgh, people of faith and moral courage have always been nourished by holy space and holy time.
Our temples, churches, synagogues, and holy days are refuges in which we gather to remember this: we’re bound together in life, faith, family, community, and common practice.
As people of faith and moral courage, we’re reeling from the massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA.
While a Jewish congregation at Shabbat worship welcomed a new life into their community, a man broke into that holy space and time to turn joy, celebration, and life into sorrow, pain, and death.
This man was fueled by the same White nationalist death-dealing hate that desecrated the Oak Creek Temple in Wisconsin, Mother Emanuel AME Church in South Carolina, 16th Street Baptist Church in Alabama, and First Baptist Church in Kentucky.
We reject the anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, xenophobic, nationalist, and racist ideologies that motivated him, and we repudiate every politician and public policy that, moved by these same ideologies, diminishes people’s ability to live whole, well, and free.
For all those affected by the massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue, we pray. We grieve with the families of the eleven people who died. May their memories be for a blessing!
And we pray for the wounded living at Tree of Life and those witnessing in solidarity all over the country. May we pledge our lives to life’s triumph over death!
Why is this important?
Today, as people of faith and moral courage, we stand together in solidarity and love, as people from different faiths, backgrounds, and states.
We stand with Jewish people across our country, understanding that attacks on one community’s sacred spaces fray the ties that bind us all.
And we recommit ourselves to work in our communities with all people targeted by hateful ideologies and every form of nationalist violence.