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Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Letter from a Birmingham Jail April 16, 1963
On Friday, January 7th, Temple Judea in Furlong gathered via Zoom for their Shabbat service. As their faith community prayed, an unknown participant entered their Zoom space and wrote hateful antisemitic and racist comments in the chat for all to read. That person then drew an offensive image on a shared slide that contained a healing prayer. These acts came swiftly, before the host of the Zoom gathering could respond.

Imagine that moment… the safe haven of community shattered by an intruder with evil intent… the innocence of their children violated by words and images that are now seared into their memories… their worship- the sacred experience of a faith community desecrated by hate. Rabbi Sigal, faith leader of this community, writes: “We feel pain and shock… our community is shaken by this breach.” How could such a hateful act happen in our community?

If this were just an isolated incident, we would grieve for their community, we would pray for their healing, we would express our sadness, but then we would move on without concern. But events in our Central Bucks School District have shown us that antisemitism exists in our community. This act of hate against Temple Judea was just an overt expression of thought that exists in our community. That same hate was expressed at a school board meeting in November during the Public Comment portion of the meeting. One speaker alleged that the local Jewish community has “widespread ties to the mafia”. The speaker declared: “It’s time to stand up to Zionism and communism in our community.” The School Board President refused to silence the speaker, arguing that everyone has the right to free speech. After the meeting, four school board members released a statement:
While we unequivocally support the opportunity for the community to exercise their right to free speech, we do not support this inflammatory speech, nor do we believe that it reflects the values of the CB School District or the community.
Some of us wonder why this statement came from only four of the school board members.

Again, if these comments made at the school board meeting were an isolated incident, we would chalk it up to a rogue member of our community trying to stir trouble in our midst. But then we hear the witness of Emma Strom, president of the Jewish Culture Club and a student at CB East High School, as she shared with the school board about antisemitism she has experienced from staff and students that has made her feel “unsafe and unwelcome.” We hear a mother describe the hateful comments her nine-year-old son hears from his fellow students on the playground at school. We hear the voice of over fifty Jewish parents who point out that if hate speech is allowed in the Public Comment forum at the school board meeting, what would curb such speech and action in the halls of our schools? One has to wonder how Jesus, a Jewish rabbi, would be received in our community today.

On Saturday, January 15th another Shabbat service was invaded by the hate of this world. A gunman in Colleyville, TX took the rabbi and several members of Beth Israel hostage, threatening violence and calling for the release of a convicted terrorist. Our nation bowed in prayer for the hostages during the 10-hour standoff. We thank God for the safety of those hostages today. But again, we must imagine how the peace of that faith community has been shattered. Whether the violation comes through words or the threat of a gun, the damage is done, people are left fearful.

In 1963, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. sat in a jail cell in Birmingham, AL, where he was held for peacefully protesting the treatment of blacks in that city. He wrote these words from his jail cell:
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

How timely his words are for us today. We could sit quietly in our homes and in our sanctuary, thankful that our worship space has not been violated and that our children are not being targeted. Or we could stand with our neighbors as they are injured by the hate in our community, praying for them and working with them to end the hate. On Tuesday, January 11th the Session of Lenape Valley Church chose to stand with Temple Judea and our other Jewish neighbors in solidarity. We composed and signed the following letter:
Dear Friends,
The faith community of Lenape Valley Church and her Elders grieve with you over the invasion of your worship gathering on Friday, January 7th. The senseless acts of hate perpetrated on the faith community of Temple Judea as you gathered in prayer are an offense to our whole community. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” We stand in solidarity with you, denouncing these acts of hate and prejudice.

As the Elders of Lenape Valley Church gather on Tuesday, January 11th, we lift your community in prayer for healing, trusting the God of Jacob who is our refuge and strength (Psalm 46). We pray for your strength, and for God’s wisdom for your leaders, as you seek God’s way forward. We stand with you in our community, calling for peace and justice.

With you in prayer, The Elders of Lenape Valley Church
How will we “stand with” our neighbors at Temple Judea? How will we stand with our other neighbors who are feeling the sting of hate and prejudice? Will we speak up when hate enters the room? Will we value all our neighbors as people created in the image of God? Will we love our neighbor as Jesus has loved us? Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminds us that if we are not part of the solution, we are part of the problem. May our faith community and each of us as individuals be God’s instruments of healing grace.

Standing with you,
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