It is an honor to stand in this sanctuary surrounded by colleagues and friends representing so many brother and sister faith traditions.
To my mind, this synagogue is the perfect place for us to stand together against hate and deliver a message of inclusion and love. We Jews know full well the consequences of hateful rhetoric and actions, especially when they come from or are enabled by the powerful and privileged. Our history is filled with instances of victimization and oppression, times when bigotry was given license and persecution was encouraged.
To my right is a Torah scroll rescued from Czechoslovakia after World War II. It is the sole surviving remnant of a Jewish community that was otherwise destroyed simply because of its faith.
In many ways, we Jews see that Torah as a symbol of who we are called to be in the world, a people plucked from the ashes of destruction in order to share God’s message to humanity.
That message begins with the claim that every human being is a child of God. We are all of us brothers and sisters. The Torah then asks, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” And over and over again the words of that scroll cry out the answer, yes. We are responsible for the welfare of all our brothers and sisters.
The Torah tells us to love both our neighbor and the stranger; it insists that all human beings – male or female, Christian or Muslim, native-born or immigrant, documented or undocumented, rich or poor, black or white, gay or straight, everyone – deserve equal protection, equal rights, and equal respect.
It tells us that when our fellow human being is poor, we are duty-bound to care for him; that when our fellow human being is hungry, we are obligated to feed him; that when our fellow human being is suffering or hurt, we must lift him up.
Lo ta’amod al dam re’ekha, it says. Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor. Lo tukhal l’hit’alem it insists. You must not look away.
So we are here today because we refuse to stand idly by when any of our brothers and sisters are victims of the prejudice, intimidation, and aggression that, according to the Anti-Defamation League, has proliferated in our country since last month’s election.
We refuse to look away when hateful rhetoric emanates not only from the most ignorant and fearful pockets of our society but also from corridors of power.
We refuse to look away when bigotry inspires discriminatory policies or hate-fueled violence.
We are here to affirm that every human being was created in the divine image, that each of us has equal and infinite value, that we are all brothers and sisters.
We are here to stand with and for any person, and any community, whose dignity, welfare, or lives are at risk, especially when they are threatened with the implied consent of the powerful.
And we are here to demand that all our leaders – whether they be local, state, or national officials – recognize the divine image in every single human being; that they uphold George Washington’s vision that our government will give “to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance”; that they will be steadfast in working for and lifting up every one of us.
We are here to pledge ourselves to fulfilling this country’s historic promise that the circle of liberty will ever expand to include us all; and we are here to fulfill our faith’s command that we are, all of us, called to be our brother’s and sister’s keepers.
May God give us strength. May God bless us with peace.