In America’s current divided society, moments of unity are rare and deeply cherished. With a heavy heart on October 28th, I made my way to the Boston Common in hopes of finding such an experience. The previous day brought sorrow to the forefront, spreading from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to the ends of the country. Eleven lives were tragically taken from Squirrel Hill’s Tree of Life Congregation in an antisemitic hate crime. Upon hearing of a nearby rally to address this disturbing attack, I made it my priority to attend.
When I initially arrived at the park, I could not find the group of people that I had assumed there would be. I was filled with frustration at the thought that no one else had shown up for such an important event. I was happily proven wrong, however, as I made my way further down the main path and discovered a full crowd gathered around a large gazebo. In fact, there were hundreds of people. People old and young, some with children or significant others. Many were Jewish, but I was able to see a variety of religions in the mix; the same went for ethnic groups. The crowd that gathered there embodied the definition of diversity. Standing in the gazebo was a number of dignitaries with prepared speeches, including Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, Massachusetts Congressman Joe Kennedy, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, and several members of the Massachusetts State Police.
All of the speeches carried a similar main goal of coming together to resist hatred in America. One of the most powerful happened to be delivered by a student from Boston University who grew up in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood, as a member of the Tree of Life Congregation. She spoke of heartbreak upon hearing the news that her once-safe place of worship became the site of a massacre. Other interesting words came from people of various religions. One after the other, Jewish, Catholic, and Muslim leaders stood at the podium and called for acceptance and harmony in the nation. Of many strong quotes presented that afternoon, one of the most prominent came from a police officer who stated that “Evil cannot write the story of our country.” The pause that followed was filled with a multitude of cheers.
Being a part of this crowd was one of the most moving experiences I have ever encountered. The community around me held each other close, sobs breaking the silence as lives were mourned and prayers were shared. The rally ended as the crowd recited the Kaddish Yatom, also known as the Mourner’s Kaddish. The sound created as individuals began to deliver the words echoed through the air and brought tears to my own eyes, bringing about a togetherness that has been truly missing in current days. In English, the prayer translates to:
“Glorified and sanctified be God’s great name throughout the world
which He has created according to His will.
May He establish His kingdom in your lifetime and during your days,
and within the life of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon;
and say, Amen.
May His great name be blessed forever and to all eternity.
Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honored,
adored and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He,
beyond all the blessings and hymns, praises and consolations that
are ever spoken in the world; and say, Amen.
May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us
and for all Israel; and say, Amen.
He who creates peace in His celestial heights,
may He create peace for us and for all Israel;
and say, Amen.”
Once the words had been spoken, the rally ended. I walked away from Boston Common that afternoon with a sense of solidarity that I will embrace for the rest of my life. In the midst of chaos, I can only hope that America chooses to embrace it as well. The connection that I felt with my community brings me an abundance of hope for the future of this nation that we are a part of.