Rabbi Miriam Terlinchamp is the spiritual leader of the Temple Sholom Community in Blue Ash and is president of the AMOS Project in Cincinnati.
At 2 AM Sunday, Pulse nightclub in Orlando became the scene of the largest mass shooting in United States history. In the same moment that an unstable man targeted GLBTQ individuals with his assault rifle, killing 49 and injuring over 50, Jews across the world celebrated Shavuot, the holiday of receiving the Torah. On Shavuot, the Jewish people recall our belief that every soul stood at Sinai’s foot, with thunder, quaking earth and smoke, hearing the still, quiet voice of God. Our souls travel back to that moment each season with our festival of Shavuot.
This Shavuot, thunder came in the sound bullets. Smoke came in the clouded vision that comes with rage, fear, and loss. Quaking in the shoulders of all the bereaved as we cry out for this world that feels broken.
And the still small voice? In the prayers for this country to change.
In tragedy after tragedy, social media erupts with “thoughts and prayers” for cities, individuals and communities. But what does prayer matter when it can not bring back the dead? What good is prayer when it cannot mete out justice? What is the point of prayer in this age of terrorism?
In the Jewish tradition, prayer is not about God; prayer is about and for human beings. God does not need our supplications, but we do. Prayer offers comfort, imbues strength, and reminds us of the change that we are capable of making. Prayer is both a salve and an aspiration. Our prayers are the first step to action.
One year ago, after the shooting of Officer Sonny Kim and the massacre at Mother Emmanuel, and then again after the shooting of Sam Dubose, Cincinnati came together with other faith communities. We wanted to DO something. The first step was to pray as one community, then to build bridges, and finally to galvanize our collective strength to change the world that we live in.
Change is slow, I know. But there is great power in being in community with other people who are motivated to mold our prayers into advocacy even if that process works slower than the changes we need to see.
In the face of loss, here are some things that we can do as individuals and as a community:
PRAY with others: Join us at Christ Church Cathedral (318 E Fourth Street) today, June 15, at 6 pm, as we join together as a unified community with members of the Christian, Methodist, Muslim and Jewish faith as well, as with leaders from the GLBTQ community. On June 23 at 7 pm at Truth and Destiny Church in Northside, we will hold an interfaith Pride service as well.
MARCH in Cincinnati Pride on June 25 at 11 am.
JOIN a Cincinnati-based gun violence prevention and advocacy group like www.momsdemandaction.org.
GIVE blood here in Cincinnati; money to the victims’ families on their Gofundme page and time to show support for our GLBTQ community.
PARTICIPATE in the change you want to see in this world. Call together people you love and talk about how you want to make a difference. Come together in small groups at Temple with like-minded people. Reach out, connect, and advocate for what you believe to be true.
When faced with terror and fear, the only way to change is by joining hands and moving forward together. We are one community: in love, support and our ability to foster change.