Message Regarding Tree Of Life Congregation Tragedy

You shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. Leviticus 19:18

Dear Episcopal Community,

This weekend we were startled by yet another act of hate, this time at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh. On Monday night, thousands of people in Jacksonville gathered at the Congregation Ahavath Chesed, The Temple, for a Vigil Against Hate.

It was a very moving evening. People from all walks of life, all faith traditions, gathered together in solidarity, support, and love for one another. Jews, Christians, and Muslims – black, white, and brown – young and old – we gathered to remember the lives who were taken too soon, and we gathered to stand against hate.

At one point in the service, candles were lit for each of the eleven people murdered at the synagogue. Their names were read aloud. The service continued with local rabbis speaking, as well as our mayor, Lenny Curry. Ann Stone, a descendant of the founding family of the Tree of Life Congregation, spoke of the victims she knew. She spoke of the legacy and light that they each leave behind.

The message that really resonated was that the light of these eleven people dispels the darkness of hate. Senior Rabbi Elizabeth Bahar told us that we cannot just come to this service and then leave without acting. We need to take the light of these victims into our world and make a difference. We need to make the world a better place, ensuring that our light and the light of these eleven people cover the darkness. This message from our Jewish brothers and sisters is also a Christian message. Hatred cannot win over the light.

At Episcopal School of Jacksonville, we will continue to find ways to shine our light on hatred and darkness. Acts of hate will be condemned as we find ways to cast our light on our campus, in our city, and around the world.

Every morning this week at the Kirwan Flag Plaza at 8:00 a.m, we are praying for the victims and for our world. We seek God’s guidance as we seek to shine light on any and all hatred. Our week of prayer will culminate this Friday at 8:00 a.m. on the flag plaza. The Rev. Adam Greene, Head of School, and I invite all students, faculty, staff, parents, and alumni to join us for this brief prayer vigil and in our stance against hate.

Join us in praying for these victims. Join us in standing beside our Jewish brothers and sisters and all who encounter hate. May God’s light abound.

Joyce Fienberg
Richard Gottfried
Rose Mallinger
Jerry Rabinowitz
David Rosenthal
Cecil Rosenthal
Bernice Simon
Sylvan Simon
Daniel Stein
Melvin Wax
Irving Younger

Faithfully,

The Rev. Teresa Seagle +
Dean of Spiritual Life