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A Time to be Together, Gathering to Express Hope the Day After the Election

November 9, 2016

Late Tuesday night, November 8th, it became evident that what many of us hoped/worked/prayed and yearned for was not going to happen. Donald Trump – Donald Trump! – will be the next President of the United States.

I went to bed but could not sleep. It was one of the most restless nights that I have had in a very long time. Reality pushed me toward denial. The morning’s light made that impossible and drove the point home: Americans have elected someone who denigrates women in vile terms, disparages the disabled, vilifies people who are of different ethnicities or nationalities, threatens to shatter families through deportation, beckons violence with the promise to provide legal representation to those who heed his call to intimidate/harass/beat people who disagree with him, belittles soldiers who were captured in conflict…have I left anything out? He is a bully, and as President he will speak for all the citizens of America: for those who voted for him or against him, those who voted for a third party, those who wrote in a name, and those who did not vote.

I woke up worried about our immediate future and the future that awaits my children and yours. I woke up needing connection and conversation, and so by 6am on November 9th I decided to offer members of our congregation and the larger community the opportunity to come together:

A Time to Be Together

tonight, Wednesday, November 9th, at 7:00pm at our synagogue

to pray, contemplate and give voice to hope

Our brief service through the Avote v’Imahote and G’vurote – gratitude to those who led us through times of doubt and gave voice to faith – will express love for our country and the open sharing of thoughts about how to move toward the light so that we might apply Jewish values for the sake of our nation and all its citizens.

Bring creative writings or treasured words to add to our dialogue.

            Invite your family and friends to be with us as together we create a path of hope.

What happened that evening was remarkable. It was one of the most powerful moments in the 22 year history of our congregation.

People kept entering the sanctuary, filling rows, until almost 70 souls sat together to give voice to their concerns, fears and hopes.

I began with these words: “We are here because we are dazed and disheartened. We are stunned and we are angry. We are speechless and we are grasping for moorings called “hope” and “resolve” because we want to believe that the future can be better than the past. We are looking for kindred spirits with whom to share the challenges, and with whom we can become healers, and messengers of hope and peacemakers.

We are here because a baet Knesset, a house of gathering, is also a sanctuary. It cannot protect us from the world, but it can offer us respite, and what we do here, what we say here, and what inspires us here can give us strength to engage the world yet again.

We will sing and we will pray, and then we will share our thoughts, our fears, our concerns and especially our hopes. Let us not dwell on the litany of mistakes made, and harsh words used, on the long, tedious, bruising journey to the day that votes were cast, but let us speak about how we will harness hope and values for the benefit of all of the citizens of our country.

The nation endures and we in its midst…bruised, disappointed, perhaps despairing…but at our core we are a People of faith, of hope, of covenant… with God and with each other.”

We sang and we spoke. We sang “Heal Us Now” and then we listened to each other. One mother told us that her daughter, born in Guatemala and adopted into their loving home, was told by a classmate at school that she would be deported. This young lady will celebrate her Bat Mitzvah in June. She is one of the best of us. She is worried. Her mother is worried, and spoke through tears while her voice caught as she spoke. Another mother told us that her daughter called from college. Her daughter was born in Vietnam and she was adopted into one of the most loving families in our midst. I had the pleasure of standing with her at her Bat Mitzvah and Confirmation, and blessed her as she left for college. She told her mother and father that she is an immigrant, a woman and a Jew, and she suddenly doesn’t feel as if this is her country anymore.

People spoke about their fears for our country, their anger at what has transpired, and their concern for so many who are being marginalized and threatened. And mainly people spoke about the critical need to become more involved in community, the need to make values concrete by what we do and how we speak to each other and about others.

There were tears of pain and dismay, and an hour later we stood together to sing “God Bless America’ and ‘America The Beautiful’ and ‘Hatikvah’ because right now hope is a precious resource and we need to tap into it and make it grow within us and beyond us.

Last night was ‘A Time to be Together’ and so too tomorrow and the day after, and the weeks beyond and the years to come. We lost the election. Let us not lose hope and let us not lose sight of the fact that together we are stronger, all of us…and that includes people who have no voice, who have been denigrated and threatened…we will be their voice.

Rabbi Elliot J. Holin