While I was rabbi in Topeka, Kansas
I saw the KKK demonstrate and I saw Neo Nazis demonstrate
Both at the state Capitol
With the Westboro Baptist Church always picketing nearby
Spouting their hatred as well.
I heard those groups spew forth their bigotry and intolerance -
Seeking to acquire ultimate power which they believed had been taken away from them
while accusing others of being guilty of abominations and evil.
In their misplaced passion for intolerance, they forgot about one ancient list
of human behaviors that we are called upon to hate - from which we should stay far far way.
Those behaviors were:
A lying tongue
Hands that shed innocent blood
A mind that hatches evil plots
Feet quick to run to evil
A false witness testifying lies
And one who incites conflict between people.
When it comes to responding to actions like those, hatred is totally appropriate and required
If we are to be human beings willing to stand side by side with each other in companionship and cooperation.
When it comes to seeing a group dehumanize others in word and deed
As happened in Charlottesville, resulting not only in insult but in injury and loss of life,
We must respond with words of condemnation. Sometimes, THERE IS ONLY ONE SIDE.
That is something that our current administration did not remember yesterday as it tried to walk a tightrope so as not to lose the support of those white supremacist demonstrators who descended on Charlottesville.
But we would cry out that the support of such people is not something to seek in the first place
Or to welcome or to maintain.
We know that silently assenting to the rhetoric of such haters
And focusing, instead, on keeping “law and order” undermines any call for unity.
I for one would not step into to such a circle
That does not roundly condemn the hatred and intolerance that targets many, including me,
for virtual Expulsion from the human race.
But still, we are all citizens together.
We appreciate national leaders across the ideological spectrum who condemned the hatred and loss of life in no uncertain terms.
And look around tonight - see who is here.
What is important is that we are here now.
We are sincere and passionate, ready to commit ourselves to hope, to understanding
To the acknowledgment of the pain we may experience
Whatever the source, whatever the cause
To work together, once and for all, leaving hatreds behind
And managing disagreements in a spirit of respect.
In the words of my friend, liturgist and poet Alden Solovy,
“We are American, born to a legacy of truth and justice, born to a legacy of freedom and equality”
And I would add that we Americans should always be ready to enlarge that circle
Of truth, justice, freedom and equality
To all who are ready to stand by each other with a sense of deep concern.
And love for who we are and who we can be.
May these ancient words guide us now and always:
How good and how pleasant it is when people dwell together in unity