John Lennon’s memorable lyrics from “Imagine” stir the soul as we contemplate his dream of a future in which all could live together in peace with one another. The power of that dream came to fruition not long ago at the powerful Shabbat of Solidarity at Temple Shalom. Nearly 1500 overflowed the sanctuary, social hall, lobby and beyond – some standing on the patio outside, others turning away because of traffic to watch the service via livestream technology. Cars were parked alongside Pine Ridge for a half mile in either direction.
The event began as a community response to the vandalism of the Temple Shalom sign on Pine Ridge Road. A shotgun was used to damage the sign, and spark fear. Reaching out to faith and community leaders, I invited them to participate in a service of solidarity at the congregation. We could never imagine the immense outpouring of emotion and love that resulted from that call to action.
In the days before the service I received dozens of emails, phone calls, and messages of support. More than one person offered to pay for any repair costs, as one gentleman explained,
“If hate mongrels can destroy [the sign], lovers of all people can keep on fixing it.”
Jews, Christians, Muslims, Ba’hai and other faiths attended the Shabbat of Solidarity service. The speakers included: Father Bob Kantor (St. Agnes), Reverend Dr. Dawson Taylor (Naples UCC), Reverend Dr. Kathy Kircher, Reverend Kathy Schillreff (St. Monica’s), Imam Mohammed al-Darsani (Islamic Center of Ft. Myers), Reverend Tony Fisher (Unitarian Universalist Church of Naples), Amy Snyder (Holocaust Museum& Education Center of Southwest Florida), Jeffrey Feld(Jewish Federation of Collier County) and Mayor Bill Barnett.
The video of the service, including their moving messages can be viewed on our Temple Shalom website at www.naplestemple.org under the Media tab and livestream archive.
As I shared that night, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Hescheldescribed his experience of marching alongside Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as, “Praying with my feet.” We prayed with our feet at the Shabbat of Solidarity. Our joint prayers that night focused on creating a community in which hatred can find no purchase, and a society in which the seeds of injustice cannot flourish and bloom. We prayed for the strength and courage necessary to continue standing up to hate and injustice.
As well as the wisdom needed to build bridges that connect us, while tearing down the walls that divide us. All left with the message that there is no “us & them” only “us.”
That evening demonstrated the strength of our community to come together in a time of need. We must now take steps to ensure that the hope and awe we experienced at the Shabbat of Solidarity was not a one-time event, but a recurring theme. It is time to immerse ourselves in the work of building bridges, and creating the world as we imagine it could be.
Through all of these efforts, we pray that we will continue to build on the sense of community created by the Shabbat of Solidarity, as well as brighten our community for many months and years to come.
Rabbi Adam Miller