Thought for Shabbat – November 9, 2018
There is a scene in the fun 1980 comedy film Blues Brothers when Jake and Elwood Blues are stuck in traffic. They find out that the reason for the traffic jam is a neo-Nazi protest is taking place. “Illinois Nazis,” remarks Elwood Blues, shaking his head. “I hate Illinois Nazis”, says Jake and the two of them proceed to drive their car directly into the protest of the Nazis sending them into a body of water. It’s a funny scene.
In this last midterm election, this scene flipped from comedy to something else altogether when another Illinois Nazi and Holocaust denier, Arthur Jones, received 55,000 votes this week in his Illinois district as he ran for Congress. He had run unopposed in his primary because as a Democratic stronghold, the Republican Party chose to not even put up a candidate, opening the door for Jones. The Republican Governor asked voters to ignore Jones. Even Senator Ted Cruz tweeted to the people of that district that they only have two reasonable choices: write in another candidate or vote Democratic.
It’s not like we needed another example of hate here in Pittsburgh. Not now. Not ever. But in Pittsburgh we also saw numerous signs of love, vigils, personal messages, flowers and so many other expressions of unity. Yesterday I saw the huge mounds of letters of support received by Tree of Life from all over the country. There are even the daily notes we have received at Adat Shalom since last week. And of course, there are the hundreds of local churchgoers who lined our driveway with candles escorting us into a difficult Friday night service, a loving gesture that no one who was there will ever forget.
As today we commemorate Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass of November 9, 1938, and in the aftermath of our own city’s experience, we can’t help but make comparisons. The local cartoonist, Rob Rodgers, even drew a picture of Tree of Life with bullet holes and the words “Day of Broken Glass” prominently displayed together with the word “hate” spelled out in the middle of the broken glass. Many articles have been written on this subject.
The Illinois Nazis who tried forty years ago to march in the heavily Jewish and Holocaust survivor area of Skokie, Illinois, and their ideological descendants as well as those who knowingly voted for Arthur Jones are still with us. But what we have learned in the last couple of weeks is that there are also people of principle willing to stand up to hate, from Charlottesville to Pittsburgh and beyond. There are people who will stand with us today, unlike that dark night eighty years ago. Those people will help us heal, even if we are left with the scars of our experience. And it with those scars that we will face the Illinois Nazis and others on our right as well as the enemies on our left. As long as we remain together, we will not only survive, but we will thrive.
Rabbi Yaier Lehrer
As many of us continue to search for answers and healing, we will have a little bit of a different Shabbat service this evening and spend time exploring those things which we are thinking about. We will also bring some fun into services tomorrow morning as the Bible Players perform during services and as part of a workshop after lunch. This will be a kid-friendly program. For something more adult on Saturday night, the Bible Players will perform at Ohav Shalom as part of a program that is co-sponsored by Adat Shalom and Ohav Shalom.