As I drove into the small parking lot of the synagogue I attend in West Tennessee I noticed the unusual number of cars parked. I immediately knew why my small congregation had suddenly grown: eleven Jews had been murdered just days before. As I walked up the steps towards Friday night services I found myself surrounded by flowers, candles and notes laid on our doorstep. As I walked through those same doors I found myself surrounded by more people than I ever have been sitting in the pews of my little synagogue. Again I knew why we had suddenly grown.
As I looked around me I realized that there were more Christians than Jews praying alongside me. There were people who had never entered a synagogue before, including one of my best friends who had come with me. That was when I realized, as we mourned the loss of eleven Jews, that today we were all Jews. We were all people who had lost eleven members of our extended family. We were all human.
As I came to this realization I remembered the words of a wise teacher I once had. While explaining his Jewish family history regarding the holocaust he showed his students a picture of his new baby girl and said simply that “this is why Hitler didn’t win. This is why hate didn’t win.” Hate did not win because the Jewish faith continued. We survived the holocaust and we have children who will have children of their own, and they will continue to keep our faith alive.
As I sat in the synagogue last night and as I drove the hour home to Martin I realized that even in my small West Tennessee town: hate does not win. By coming together as a community, despite our differences, we can prove that hate may be scary and it might make us question who we are, but it will never win.