Standing in the rain outside Soldiers and Sailors Hall at Sunday’s vigil for the victims of the synagogue shooting, I fought back tears as I listened to the music, prayers, scripture readings, and stirring words from religious and secular and political leaders. I tried to understand how best to respond to such hatred and violence, and how to process its meaning to our community.
As I looked at the crowd and the building, I saw these words from Abraham Lincoln carved on the front left of the building:
The War for the Union is the People’s conflict to make certain whether there shall be preserved in this world that form and substance of government, the object of which is to remove obstacles from the pathway of all, to open the avenues of honorable employment for all, to give to all an unfettered start and a fair chance in the race of life.”
More than 150 years after those words were written, this remains the People’s conflict. Justice still must conquer hatred if our society is to “remove obstacles from the pathway of all.”
So too, it is the larger mission of Just Harvest to insist that our government must exist to “give to all an unfettered start and a fair chance.”
The eleven people who lost their lives at synagogue on Saturday are martyrs to their faith, as are all those murdered for their religion. As American Jews, whose families found here fewer obstacles and more open avenues, fewer fetters and more fair chances, they are perhaps also martyrs to the cause of freedom, just as Lincoln was.
The cause of freedom and unfettered opportunity for all was, is, and must remain our national purpose.
It is our common purpose whatever our faith tradition and creed or whether we have none at all. It is our common purpose whatever our race or ethnic background.
It is our common purpose whether our ancestors came here in flight from oppression or were brought here in chains, or came here for opportunity and a fresh start, or were here all along. It is our common purpose no matter what dividing lines those filled with hatred use to try to divide us.
With courage and solidarity and a re-dedication to victory in this cause, we grieve together. And together, we move forward.