NYC Mayor Adams' Vigil for Buffalo, NY Shooting Victims

On Monday, May 16, 2022, New York City Mayor Eric Adams convened an interfaith prayer vigil at Bethel Gospel Assembly in Harlem in honor and remembrance of the victims of the Buffalo, NY race-motivated mass shooting that took place on May 14. 

About 45 minutes into the vigil, CBST’s Senior Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum addressed those gathered. Here are excerpts from Rabbi Kleinbaum’s remarks:

My name is Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, and I’m the senior rabbi of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah. CBST is the largest LGBTQ synagogue in the world, and proud to be in New York for 49 years.

I stand tonight, in this moment of the Jewish cycle of the year between Passover and Shavuot, when we are moving from slavery into receiving the Torah, receiving the Bible at Mount Sinai, aware that we today are like the Israelites of the Bible, wandering for years in the desert.

Where is the Promised Land? Does it exist? Are we going to be able to get out of the desert and find our way to the Promised Land?

“How long?” We cry out in the Psalms.

“How long?” O Lord, how long will we suffer this way? Why have you abandoned us?

Gun violence in our streets. How long?

Gun violence killing worshippers in a Sikh temple, Christian church, Muslim mosque, Jewish synagogue. How long?

Gun violence in a grocery store, movie theaters, elementary schools, high schools, colleges. How long, O God, how long?

The shooter, a white man infected by hatred of Black people, with a plan. White Nationalism infected him, he says, on the internet during COVID.

How long, O Lord, do we allow unfettered gun access, tactical military-style guns, in the hands of people who hate?

How long, O Lord, do we allow an internet to run wild?

How long do we allow racism—racism—to be at the bedrock of so much evil in this society?

White Nationalism’s ultimate goal is to take over the state. Make no mistake, and Eric Ward speaks so movingly about this. It is about to create so much chaos and hate that those of us who number in greater numbers will be weakened and destroyed.

White Nationalism, deeply at its core, links racism and antisemitism. Make no mistake, let there be no light between us. They don’t see light between us.

White Nationalism fears Black people, Jews, LGBTQ, immigrants.

They have a theory called the replacement theory, that Black people are going to replace white people. Well, let me just say this: It’s about time.

They have a replacement theory that immigrants are going to become powerful in this country and have positions of leadership. It’s about time. It’s always been true.

They fear that LGBTQ people will have families, will be in leadership, will be your rabbis and your pastors and your imams. They’ll be teaching your children, they will be your children. They will be you. They’re not wrong.

But we too have a replacement theory. Let’s not forget that.

We will replace hate with love.

We have a much more powerful replacement theory, because our replacement theory is that love will be more powerful. That, we all of us, who are being fed a narrative of hate in order to separate us, to divide us, to be suspicious of each other—we will reject those narratives of hate. And we will replace those narratives with love and friendship, fellowship, and love.

There is only one way out of this desert. There is only one way out of this desert of hate and violence and injustice.

We must join together.

Black and brown, Asian, Jew, Christian, Sikh, Hindu, Muslim, immigrants, LGBTQ, and all who care about peace and justice.

They are not wrong when they link racism and antisemitism because they understand if we stand shoulder to shoulder, if we do not allow them to infect us, there is nothing we cannot do. And that strength is in our hands.

And for those of us who are people of faith, we understand there is a long game here.

Pharaoh does not win in the end.

There might be thousands of years of struggle and hundreds of years of suffering, and decades of pain, but Pharaoh does not win in the end.

There is only one way out of this desert. Please God, we pray that you are with us, whatever God, whatever name we use. We pray that the Source of Creation who has created each of us in God’s image gives us the strength to see the image of God in each and every one of us, and to understand together, we will defeat hate, because there is only one way out of the desert.

Be with us, God, as we continue to hope and love and believe in Your justice. Spread over us your sukkah of peace.

Teach us, Lord, to be agents of your peace.

Teach our hands to make peace in the world. Teach our arms to hug, when it’s COVID safe, teach us to be agents of the peace and justice we know You want to see in this world.

Have hope. Have courage. Be strong.

Let us join together and walk out of this desert of hate, together, one step at a time. Thank you.

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