ELCA Presiding Bishop Responds to Anti-Semitic Incidents in New York
December 30, 2019
Today is the last day of Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights commemorating the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. As our Jewish siblings lighted the menorah, they sang this blessing:
We kindle these lights because of the wondrous deliverance You performed for our ancestors. During these eight days of Hanukkah, these lights are sacred; we are not to use them but only to behold them, so that their glow may rouse us to give thanks for Your wondrous acts of deliverance.
Tragically, several acts of anti-Semitic hatred, bigotry and violence in New York during these days have marred the joyful festivities in Jewish communities across this country and around the world. Within the last year, we have witnessed the broader surge of anti-Semitism from Pittsburgh, to Poway, in which these most recent incidents have occurred. Our Jewish neighbors are living in pain, grief and fear.
Twenty-five years ago, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America joined other Lutheran Christians worldwide in repudiating anti-Judaism within our own tradition. In our 1994 “Declaration of the ELCA to the Jewish Community” we affirmed that “we recognize in anti-Semitism a contradiction and affront to the Gospel, a violation of our hope and calling, and we pledge this church to oppose the deadly working of such bigotry, both within our own circles and in the society around us.”
This will require more of us than repeated statements. It will require building bridges of inter-religious understanding in our communities. It will require reaching out to our Jewish neighbors to offer our care, support, love and protection. It will require our persistence in addressing the root causes of anti-Semitism and its menacing companions of white supremacy and xenophobia.
In different ways, and for different reasons, this is a time of year when Jews and Christians celebrate the miracle of light. In our prayers and actions, may we be a living presence of God’s sacred light that rouses us all to resistance and righteousness.
The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton
Presiding Bishop, ELCA
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
This past Friday, January 10, MNYS Bishop Paul Egensteiner and his staff participated in the Shabbat service at Central Synagogue, to show that through prayer and through solidarity we can confront the recent anti-Semitic violence that has erupted in our city.
Each staff member was invited to write a brief reflection on this prayerful experience. Please enjoy these reflections as we join Bishop Eaton and Bishop Egensteiner’s stance on standing with our Jewish siblings:
LIGHT OF GOD
And then all will share equally in Earth's abundance
And then all will care for the sick and the weak and the old
And then all will nourish the young
And then all will cherish life's creatures
And then everywhere will be called Eden once again
On Friday, January 10, I had the opportunity to be part of the team that accompanied Bishop Egensteiner to the Shabbat Worship service at Central Synagogue. Being able to stand in solidarity with our Jewish siblings during this dark time in our history resonated deeply within me. We were greeted with sheer gratitude by both the leaders and members of the Central Synagogue, and were invited to recite a beautiful poem by Judy Chicago as part of their service. As we were reading the poem, its words reminded me of Isaiah 11:6-9 and the vision of the "Peaceable Realm," and also of the true essence of the speech of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., "I have a Dream." It was a sacred moment, a significant time in our journey. May we continue to bear witness to the light of God, which cannot be overcome by darkness.
—The Rev. Gladys Díaz, Assistant to the Bishop
LOVING ONE'S NEIGHBOR AS ONESELF
In times such as these, we need more reminders of God’s love. What an honor and privilege to stand in prayer with our Jewish siblings at the Shabbat Worship service.
Shoulder to shoulder, within the splendor of Central Synagogue, we—adults and children, youth and elders —sang and prayed, and we lifted up the bonds of our interconnectedness.
As people of faith, there is a tangible power in loving one’s neighbor as oneself.
With the Kippah on my head as an outward sign of respect and prayerfulness, may you receive these words as my continued prayer in love.
May God’s right hand lead us closer to goodness and peace.
—Branden Dupree, Assistant to the Bishop/ Director for Evangelical Mission
A LIGHT THAT THE DARKNESS WILL NEVER OVERCOME
"Few people know this about me, but for a brief time in my life, I lived in Beersheba, Israel. It was both a challenging and transformative experience. One of the challenges I faced during that time was getting used to the idea of having a bomb shelter in my apartment. Being *alert* became then — and has become now, living in NYC — a constant element in my everyday life.
During the introduction and welcoming messages of the service, the Senior Rabbi mentioned that the Shabbat service gives us the opportunity to experience an encounter with the creator. And this is absolutely true; there was a constant sense of divinity and community throughout the entire service. However, that inspired me to reflect on the sad fact that even before entering the sanctuary space, and in preparation for this encounter, we needed to pass through colossal metal detectors at the main entrance of the space—massive devices that obstructed the historical beauty of the sacred space and disrupted ones’ peaceful pace.
Fear is more and more, becoming a constant uninvited guest to this heavenly encounter.
Lutherans have become strong advocates for interfaith and ecumenical relationships because we understand that the Holy Spirit is calling us to confront fear with the light of God. A light that the darkness will never overcome, especially as we stand together with our siblings of faith ".
—Roberto Lara, Assistant to the Bishop for Communications & Development
AN UNMISTAKABLE PRESENCE OF GOD
Traveling to the Central Synagogue was a weighted honor. While it was invigorating to attend the beautiful Shabbat service, the visit was also colored by the reality of why we were there, which was to stand with our Jewish siblings in solidarity during their experiences of gross Anti-Semitic acts of violence. I felt the weight of what our presence meant that night, and the weight of the anxiety that accompanies people who are targeted.
So we stood, uncomfortably, not knowing all the Hebrew, and out of our respective comfort zones. But we stood nonetheless.
Perhaps God is calling us to stand this day. This sentiment rings true not only for our interfaith siblings, but also for each other. Amidst discomfort and unsure footing, we are called to stand up and to speak out. We are called to lift our voices resolutely in solidarity. We have a precious mandate to find ways to show up and to put our bodies on the line. Greater love hath no [one] than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13).
I could not understand all of what was being said, but the presence of God that I felt in the sanctuary was unmistakable. I t is amazing that when we go to places to lend our support, there we will most often find and share in the Divine presence. And in the presence of the Lord, there is the fullness of joy.
What an honor .
—The Rev. Kevin Vandiver, Assistant to the Bishop