A reflection on the Tragedy in Charlottesville


By Rabbi Heather Miller

Friday night, while I was leading Shabbat services on the pulpit at my congregation in Los Angeles, the world’s first LGBT founded Jewish congregation, preaching on the power of love exalted, an impassioned gathering with displays of hatred and bigotry were taking place in Charlottesville.

While we were honoring the holiday that we celebrated the Monday prior called Tu B’Av, a holiday first noted in the Talmud as a celebration of love and joy and human connection, they were shouting racial and religious slurs rooted in resentment, scorn and hatred.

Friday night, we gathered to light sabbath candles to illumine one another’s countenance, each a reflection of God, to promote care and dignity and respect for all, and to expand sacred space in the world as we have each week across our congregation’s 45 year history. We did this as they ignited tiki torches to shed light on the stunted limits of the reach of their inhibited love.

We picked up prayerbooks, they picked up firearms. We honored broadly uniting, they aimed at narrowly defining and dividing.

In our modern world, everyone has a choice: what traditions to honor, which wicks to light. And in choosing, the questions become: with whom are we talking? With whom are we standing? To whom are we accountable and loyal? What do our values expressed look like?

To make that choice in the days moving forward, as Jews, personally, we need to emotionally and spiritually prepare for the trauma that was shaped by thousands of years of persecution and murder; trauma that has even permeated our DNA in what is called epigenetics. Facing and standing against hate will trigger a deep fear within ourselves. We need to be aware of this and any prepare spiritually for the response it may provoke in order to stand firmly on the side of love.

As individuals, we need to reach out to others who have been targeted whose own painful trauma is triggered by these events. We build understanding and solidarity this way, ultimately helping to heal the world. We are stronger together.

As a community, we need to show up and do so in a supportive way. Not always seeking the “leadership” role, but knowing how to be supportive especially of the voices not heard, and the most vulnerable at the moment. We can be assured that when we stand shoulder to shoulder, even if silently for instance as legal observers at public rallies and such, we will bolster and support one another. The sacred act of presence is an invaluable gift.

Finally, we need to continue to educate ourselves and financially support groups who teach about the dangers of such hate. These include organizations like the Anti-Defamation League, and Holocaust Museums, as well as think tanks like the Political Research Associates and Media Matters, as well as the grassroots organizations who are and have been speaking out against this type of rhetoric and for ages, too many to name here.

With all of us doing our part, may the illuminating light of love prevail.

3 Comments on “A reflection on the Tragedy in Charlottesville”

  • Michelle Bentcliff August 16, 2017 pm31 12:04 pm . Reply

    Thank you, Rabbi Heather for your inspiring message! You are a bright light in the world promoting unity, equality and love. Thank you for all you do! Michelle

  • Josh Irving Gershick August 17, 2017 am31 10:17 am . Reply

    Thank you, Heather. This is my favorite line – and how true: “The sacred act of presence is an invaluable gift.” We must witness. We must march. We must stand up & speak out. We must bring The Light. And may those who hate have a Spiritual Awakening.

  • Jerry Nodiff August 17, 2017 pm31 12:40 pm . Reply

    Rabbi Heather, thank you for offering this contrast as well as the challenge for us to help
    and be engaged.

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