As an organist I am often called to take part in the most important rituals of people’s lives such as weddings, funerals, baptisms, and confirmations. It’s a role that I love to have in people’s lives whether they realize it or not. But I’ve realized that working for an urban Episcopal Church in the center of a large southern city also has societal ramifications as well. Last Wednesday, November 7th, 2018, marked the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the Holocaust. That evening in 1938 is called Kristallnacht, The Night of Broken Glass, because of the sheer amount of glass that was broken from the windows of Jewish businesses and homes. To commemorate the anniversary, Temple Israel in Charlotte, NC hosted an event which honored living survivors of the Holocaust. St. Peter’s Choir was asked to sing an anthem as a musical offering.
Throughout the service I was reminded of how present oppression and racism are in today’s society. The mass shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh was especially fresh in our collective memory that evening. Then I remembered walking into Temple Israel that evening and noticing the presence of armed police officers. Is that what it takes to be safe against threats? Towards the end of the service, the Rabbi Murray Ezring asked all of the people who were at the service to stand up if they were not Jewish. About a third of those present stood up to receive the thanks of the Jewish community. Rabbi Murray Ezring then said that the reason he felt safe was because we were there. It is that moment that is seared into my memory permanently. He felt safe because there were non-Jewish people present. It was a moving reminder to embrace people who are different than you and to choose love above all else.