Thanksgiving Service

November 18, 2018 at 7 p.m.

Interfaith Friends,

The anti-Semitic shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh has shaken the nation, and reminds us of the destructive power of hate. The sad truth of this world is it is easier to destroy than to create. One person full of hate can tear down in moments what it took years and decades to build up. In this case, a shooter ended 11 beautiful lives, physically injured even more, and traumatized an entire community. Yet even though it is easier to destroy than build, this lone shooter has been answered by millions who want to comfort, care and heal. Here in Belmont, Rabbi Jonathan Kraus and the Beth El Temple Center have been moved by how many people have reached out to their community with prayers and offers of help. The Belmont Religious Council has also been approached by many wondering how to take action for love and hope.

There will be a vigil tomorrow from 5 to 6 p.m. at Arlington Town Hall, for those looking for a place to grieve. Instead of hosting a vigil here in Belmont, too, we want to encourage and celebrate ongoing acts of kindness and interfaith understanding. So we are asking you to take some kind of action in response to this tragedy between now and November 18, write it down, and bring it to our Interfaith Thanksgiving Service.

Our Interfaith Thanksgiving Service will be Nov. 18 at 7 p.m. at the Belmont Watertown United Methodist Church at 421 Common St. in Belmont. During this service, we will take up an offering for Hebrew Immigration Aid Society (HIAS), an organization that helps refugees of every faith, and was one of the reasons the shooter targeted the synagogue. During that offering, we want people to place their written action – signed or anonymous – in the offering plate. We will share some of the actions during the service (feel free to share an inspiring story ahead of the service!), and will use social media to share what others have done afterwards.

Please, be creative and use your own context to do something meaningful. Perhaps it is something interpersonal, such as reaching out to a neighbor of a different ethnicity or faith to get to know them better. Perhaps it is a donation to an organization addressing one of the many layers of this attack: antisemitism, gun violence, or fear of immigrants. Perhaps it is an inner act of introspection, such as examining your own biases and addressing them through mindfulness. We hope to be surprised by the varied and meaningful ways people respond.

The Interfaith Thanksgiving Service is in just a few weeks, and it is our hope that you will make an extra effort to attend in these times. The theme of the service is “Thanksgiving for Creation” but we also hope this interfaith gathering will be a loving response to the bigotry, hate and division in our society. I pray it will be filled with a vibrant spirit, a spirit that overcomes evil with good, and a spirit that takes on the hard work of compassion, and that you will join us.

Yours in peace and love,

Rev. Joe Zarro on behalf of the Belmont Religious Council