My synagogue is holding a joint vigil for the Pulse nightclub victims with our interfaith council and our local LGBT center tonight.
I could not be there in person, because I have been having some really rotten anxiety over the last few weeks that keeps me from being able to leave my home without help. Instead, I am watching the livestream, and liveblogging it here and on Facebook.
Our cantor began the song with “We Shall Overcome.” I sang along here at home.
So far, our rabbi, a local imam, another member of the interfaith council, our cantor, and several other people have spoken. There has been music and song and a defiant refusal to let this stop us and hurt us.
There have been acknowledgments of the harm that the fundamentalist and conservative wings of the Abrahamic religions have done to those who are GSM (gender and sexual minorities). There have been offerings of brotherhood from the Muslim community. There have been expressions of solidarity from the LGBT community. Our mayor is a gay Latino man and sent his well-wishes with the LGBT community center director.
There are two ASL signers at the front of the room.
The imam: “Dear brothers and sisters, they are never going to break us. Be the way you want to be. Be Christian if you want, be a Jew if you want, be a Muslim if you want, be an atheist if you want, be no religion if you want. We are the people of peace, and we’re going to keep doing it. It doesn’t matter what. Salaam aleikum.”
“Love wins when love is a verb.” – LGBT center director
Our rabbi: “We are going to show others that our diversity does not undermine our community – it is the foundation of the very strength of our community!”
The city councilwoman for the district where our temple is located said that our cantor’s voice makes her feel like, if Heaven has music, that’s the sound that pipes through the halls of Heaven.
(I can’t guarantee exact wording here. Sorry. I don’t type as fast as they’re talking.)
She’s also discussing the level of hate that exists in this country. She says, “This recent tragedy (in Orlando) is part of the culture of violence we’re witnessing. How did we get to this place where mass shootings are just another news story? They always involve someone who is ostracized from their community and feel they have to be part of something bigger.”
She says, “I’ve been a prosecutor for seventeen years and I’ve never seen a homeowner use a machine gun to protect their home. We need to talk about gun violence…. Once the grief and tears are past, we have to think about solutions.”
Our congressman’s representative speaks – he could not be here, as he was in D.C. this morning (we’re on the other side of the country). She talks about the Upstairs Lounge in New Orleans, the Stonewall riots, and other examples of the fear and hate that drive these kinds of atrocities leading right up to Pulse. She also talks about how the guns are far too easily to access and obtain. And finally, she calls for equality for all Americans.
Our cantor speaks about the work that needs to be done, and mentions Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony acceptance sonnet/speech: “Nothing here is promised; not one day… and love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be swept aside; now fill the world with music, love and pride.”
She sings Daniel Nahmood’s “Last Song”:
If this is my last song / If this is my final day
If tomorrow I’ll be gone / What do I want to say
If this is my last song / If it’s my time to go
When my body’s moved on / What will I have to show
No not fortune or fame – they scatter to the wind
The things that make a name – just don’t matter in the end
Is the world a little more peaceful
Oceans and sky a little more blue
Is humankind a little bit wiser
About the good that we can do
Does the sun shine a little bit brighter
Where before there was only rain
If so, then I’m glad I came
If these are my last words / For all of the earth to hear
If all that I have ever been / Is about to disappear
If these are my last words / There’s nothing that I need to say
I have only tried to serve / It’s never been about talking anyway
So much hurt there is to heal – it’s hard to understand
All I can hope to feel is that I am doing what I can
Have I given hope to the hopeless / Has a hungry soul been fed
Has a child stood a little bit taller ’cause of something that I said
Have I left a little kindness / Have I eased a little pain
If so, then I’m glad I came
For that, I’m so glad I came
If this is my last song / What do I leave behind
What do I pass on / If I am out of time
She broke down on the last line, and I can’t blame her! Not. A. Dry. Eye.
A pastor from the First Congregational Church of our town speaks next “When I came out, I lived in Jackson, Mississippi.” There’s an uncomfortable titter. He mentions Jack and Jill’s – a gay bar that I heard about earlier today on Facebook in a thread titled “What Was Your First Gay Bar?” He talks about how that bar was a safe place, where he could be himself. “I assure you that some of those folks who entered Pulse Nightclub last Saturday night felt the same sense of safety.”
And it was an illusion. It always is. A place that is supposed to be a sanctuary is not a safe place after all. How do we move forward when our sense of security has been taken from us? What is the antidote to fear? He says it’s love – and not just “holding hands and singing kumbayah” – but with action and with truth.
Our Rabbi speaks now, about “El Malei Rachamim” – a prayer we Jews recite when we are remembering and honoring someone who has died – and then our cantor sings it a capella.
(El malei rakhamim shokhen ba-m’romim ha-m’tzei m’nukhah n’khonah takhat kanfei ha-sh’khinah b’ma’alot k’doshim u’t’horim k’zohar ha-rakiah maz’hirim l’nishmot yakireinu u’k’dosheinu she-hal’khu l’olamam. Ana ba’al ha-rakhamim ha-s’tirem b’tzel k’nafekha l’olamim u-tz’ror bitz’ror ha-khayim et nishmatam. Adonai hu nakhalatam v’yanukhu b’shalom al mish’kabam v’nomar, amen.)
Rabbi gives a closing prayer, and the cantor closes the service with “True Colors.” Yes, that one – the one that Cyndi Lauper and Phil Collins both recorded back in the 1980s.
I’m glad I was able to watch the livestream. I’ve been emotionally locked down and numb since I woke up on Sunday morning. But tonight, hearing my temple’s cantor sing and hearing the community’s words and views, I was finally able to cry.
Hate and homophobia cannot stand against an alliance like this, of all faiths, of all nations. It cannot stand.
For the first time in four days, I have hope again.