From darkness to light, from mourning to hope, and from fear to strength

Blue sky, bright and dark clouds behind bare tree

The Sabbath of Friday, November 1 began in darkness at Temple Ner Tamid in Peabody when about 250 people, including the congregation and the invited clergy including members of the Peabody Clergy Ministerial Association (PCMA) and both city and state officials were joined by members of the Peabody community in a demonstration of solidarity in the face of tragedy---the murder of eleven at the Tree of Life.

Every day on the Hebrew calendar begins after sunset, but this day began in a darkness of the spirit. During the services led by Rabbi Perlman, each person struggled with the contrast between the Sabbath service, a sacred time of peace, joy and communal support, and the profound sadness and the heaviness of mourning for the eleven Jews murdered while they were at prayer in the sacred space of the Tree of Life in Pittsburgh. May their memories be a blessing.

The Sabbath is a time when even those in mourning are enjoined to stop mourning and to celebrate life.

Judaism is a religion of hope. The "Kadish" (holy, sanctified) is an ancient prayer recited in Aramaic by mourners and several other times in every synagogue service, as it was on this Sabbath. It leads the mourner to recite the attributes of God whose consolation is great; and to ask for life and peace.

The speakers included the Mayor of Peabody, Ted Bettencourt, Reverend Joel Anderle, and Police Chief Thomas Griffin, as well as Rabbi Perlman.

How could we comprehend the tragedy? Were we in Peabody also vulnerable? How can we comfort each other? How can we assure the safety of our places of worship?

And we face the fundamental problem of good and evil---as Rabbi Perlman stated, each of us has within the capacity for evil or for good.

This problem confronts humans in every time and place, and the struggle for good to triumph never ends. Alas, even good people can do evil deeds. We need constant reminders and communal support to do good.

The communal gathering at Temple Ner Tamid (eternal flame) was a demonstration of solidarity on behalf of good and against evil. Faith leaders from several congregations and churches stood with this Jewish congregation. They were joined by civic leaders and state legislators, and together affirmed by their presence a determination to honor the memory of the eleven slain Jews and to assure safety and mutual respect in Peabody.

This event brought some measure of comfort and safety, and a spiritual light of hope, and demonstrated a strong basis of decency and hope for the Peabody community.

Yes, we stand in solidarity with Pittsburgh and with Jews, but is that enough?

We may gather strength and courage by standing together in the face of the hatred that leads to the murder of innocents. That may be the essential first step to going beyond grief to renewing our common humanity and to creating barriers to hate.

We must find ways to bring this message and our renewed and demonstrated dedication to peace to many more people than the 250 persons who came together at Ner Tamid. We must find ways to listen to each other and we must find ways to stand firm against hatred, prejudice, and all forms of evil.

Where the leaders of a community do not tolerate hate, it cannot thrive.

But where leaders identify some as "others" and portray them as a threat, the constraints on evil actions are weakened. People that have lived in harmony can be incited to murder each other. We must, as individuals and as a society, speak out and act to assure the inclusion of all.

Should we not band together in a continuing communal response to support human rights for everyone? And be prepared, in the event of unforseen tragedy, to respond with strength?

And if not now, when?

The leaders of Peabody have already begun a process of healing, education, and inclusion to enable us to hear each other. Step by step.

Invited leaders of the Peabody Community

The Jewish community of Peabody appreciates the many expressions of support from the community, clergy, and civic leaders.

  • Chief Thomas Griffin (featured speaker)
  • Mayor Ted Bettencourt (speaker)
  • Representative Tom Walsh
  • Senator Joan Lovely
  • The Reverend Joel Matthew Anderle (speaker), Senior Pastor, Community Covenant Church
  • Father Mike Otero, OSF St. Clare of Assisi Catholic Community
  • Pastor Charles Stevenson, St. John Lutheran Church Peabody
  • The Rev. Marya DeCarlen, All Saints Episcopal Church of the North Shore

Other invitees who were unable to attend

  • President: Elliot Hershoff, Tifereth Israel, Peabody; members of Tifereth Israel were in attendance.
  • Dan Leavitt Immediate, Sons of Israel, Peabody
  • Pastor Lopes, Igreja Evangelica Comunidade de Cristo, congregants did attend.
  • Marvin R. Wilson Retired Professor of Biblical Studies Gordon College
  • Fr. John MacInnis, St. John Catholic Church, Peabody
  • Essex District Attorney Jonathan W. Blodgett
  • Judge Ken Desmond Jr., Associate Justice of Superior Court of Massachusetts