I’m doing research for a ghost story to take place in Savannah, Georgia. In the past or in the present? Maybe both? I don’t know yet. I’m still stumbling in the dark, banging into trees that leap out at me, dragging my booted feet through the muddle, swearing at myself for ever venturing into this murky world of fiction. I don’t write short stories. I’m a playwright. But I’m not having great success beginning my next play, either. So, what the Hell…
I do know the plot will revolve around the African American and Jewish communities of that southern American city. I’m writing an email to the rabbi of Mickve Israel, Robert Haas, whose blog I came across while looking for his address.
I am re-posting it here to thank the Rabbi and the other religious leaders of Savannah for their humanity and honorable solidarity as they make clear they will not be intimidated by the newly emboldened, suddenly fashionable stupidity, hatred, and violence.
“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” Elie Weisel
Recently, the Islamic Center of Savannah received a threatening letter, along with several other communities in the U.S. It was written by hand and was immediately denounced wholeheartedly by groups and individuals in our community. However, this letter reminds us here in Savannah of the threat that faces us today……. the threat of indifference. Elie Weisel reminds us of our responsibility to speak out against all threats, large or small, whether in New York City or Savannah, Georgia. As he beautifully wrote, “Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.”
I feel fortunate to live in a city in which clergy of all faiths band together to denounce hate and bigotry. Immediately after the hearing the news of the threat, a group of clergy from a far range of faith traditions came together to sign this letter in support of our Muslim brothers and sisters. Many of us also attended Islamic Center of Savannah’s worship service on Friday and were warmly welcomed by the community. Thank you to the people of Savannah for speaking out so quickly and uniformly. Below is the letter we wrote and signed.
We all know far too well the threat that unabashed hate poses to our community, our country and our world. Throughout time, human beings have taken it upon themselves to impose their beliefs upon others, believing themselves to singularly understand God’s plan for humankind. These human beings denounce others simply for being different, for having the audacity to hold diverse opinions and beliefs.
Yet whenever hate rears its ugly head, there have been so too, human beings who have joined together in support of the persecuted, slandered, and injured. Whenever one group of people faces a threat, others rise in support. Recently, the Islamic Center of Savannah received just such a threat, one based on hate and malice. As clergy, representing various faith traditions in Savannah, Georgia, we stand side by side with our Muslim brothers and sisters today and tomorrow, as we denounce those who have threatened this house of worship and all other houses of worship. When you attack one faith belief, then you attack all people of faith.
Nobel Peace laureate, Elie Wiesel once wrote, “No human race is superior; no religious faith is inferior.” As Americans, we defend the rights of people in our country and around the world to pray in the fashion in which they choose. As human beings, we ask for people to stand up and defend the rights of others. As people of faith, we pray for the day in which hate no longer poses a threat to our world.
Clergy of the Savannah
Thanks again, Rabbi Haas and the clergy of Savannah.
If you’re listening, Mr. Wiesel, up in that heavenly hall in which I don’t believe, we miss you, sorely.
Elie Wiesel: born 1928, Romania; died 2016, New York