Last night I had the honor of participating in a local vigil in memory of the two young Israelis who were killed during the tragic Tel Aviv Gay/Lesbian center last week. The gathering was convened by Or Hadash, a congregation that serves the Chicago LBGT community and was co-sponsored by a number of other local Jewish institutions and synagogues.
Our vigil was all the more powerful coming after a particularly disgusting local demonstration of anti-gay, anti-Jewish hate. This past Monday a small number of Fred Phelps’ notoriously homophobic Westboro Baptist Church came to Chicago for a series of protests targeting Jewish groups and synagogues (above.) Even for Phelps it was a truly sick display: they gathered to demonstrate across the street from Emanuel Congregation (which houses Or Chadash), shouting and displaying signs that read, among other things: “The Jews Killed Jesus,” “Bloody Obama,” and “God Hates Jews.”
Last night’s prayer vigil, needless to say, offered us the welcome opportunity to voice a message of tolerance. It was especially gratifying that our service was attended by an impressively diverse gathering from across the spectrum of Chicago’s religious and political community. The high point for me: an address by Rabbi Michael Balinsky, Executive Director of the Chicago Board of Rabbis, who shared a sublime prayer which that was recently written by Rabbi Dov Linzer, the Dean of the orthodox Rabbinical School Yeshivat Chovevei Torah. Among other things, Rabbi Linzer’s inspiring words helped to remind us that traditional religion and intolerance need not go hand in hand.
Master of the Universe, give us the courage to stand up to and reject all forms of hateful speech and violence. Give us the strength of spirit to refuse to tolerate the rejection of any human being, each of whom is created in בצלם א- לוהים, in Your Divine image. Help us to internalize in our hearts and to manifest in our actions the mandate of the verse in this week’s parsha ואהבתם את הגר כי גרים הייתם בארץ מצרים, that it is our responsibility to care for, to love, and to protect all members of our society, and in particular those who are most vulnerable and most likely to feel estranged and rejected. Help us to value every member of our society for whom he or she is, to care for them, to support them, and to recognize that they are an equal part of our community.
Click here for the full text of the prayer.