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Responding to the Killing of 11 Innocent People at Tree of Life Synagogue

Dear beloved of God,

Yesterday, just 250 miles away in the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh, worshippers gathered to celebrate their Jewish faith–and the sacredness of their gathering was shattered by the actions of a gunman armed with an assault rifle and shouting anti-Semitic slurs.

As of this writing, 11 people are known dead and 6 injured.

This hate-filled rampage at the Tree of Life Synagogue has left us once again torn apart as a community and as people of faith. Words of condemnation by those most deeply impacted by this horror are being spoken as the day progresses, and I join them in solidarity.

This type of hate-inspired act is unfortunately all too common in our country. Though this terrible event took place 250 miles away, know that the hatred that led to it exists within our own communities. A few weeks ago, a rabbi at a synagogue in the Bethlehem area shared with me that his own congregation hired added security shortly after the events in Charlottesville, VA. His fear of such an event happening at his own synagogue was palpable. This forewarning haunts me. Let me be clear–the only way to “tone down” hate is to love with the totality of our being.

As we continue this day, I ask for your prayers and action. I ask for your prayers for our Jewish sisters and brothers, especially members of the Tree of Life who lost loved ones yesterday. I also ask your prayers for those who are so blinded by hatred that they know not the love of God. Especially in times like these, we must remember to love one another and embrace our differences. I implore us all to look deep into our own hearts and discern where God is calling us to act for justice. Let us love one another as Christ loved us. Amen.

In God’s love,

The Rt. Rev. Kevin D. Nichols
Bishop of Bethlehem