DFW Jewish clergy respond to Orlando tragedy
Temple Shalom Rabbi Andrew Paley (far right) was one of four faith leaders who participated in a vigil honoring Orlando victims, Sunday, June 12 in Oak Lawn. Other speakers included Omar Suleiman from the Valley Ranch Islamic Center and the Rev. Neil Cazares-Thomas of Cathedral of Hope. From the LGBT community, speakers included Resource Center CEO Cece Cox, transgender activist Oliver Blumer and lesbian activist C.D. Kirven. Mayor Mike Rawlings spoke with seven Dallas City Council members around him.

By Ben Tinsley

DALLAS — Heartbroken. Furious. Determined to create change. The responses were all over the map.
But many of them were voiced Sunday night at the vigil and recitation of Kaddish held at Resource Center, 5750 Cedar Springs Road, for victims of the Sunday Orlando shooting.
As least 50 people were killed and 53 others injured during early Sunday’s deadly mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The incident is now considered the deadliest mass shooting in modern America.
Despite the ferocious rain earlier in the day Sunday, many attended the Dallas march that started at the Resource Center and ended at the Legacy of Love Monument at Oak Lawn and Cedar Springs.
Recounting the vigil to the TJP, Rabbi Andrew Paley of Temple Shalom said Monday that the overwhelming sentiment there was that this level of hatred no longer has a place in the world.
“What was expressed at the vigil is what we all are feeling — this combination of sadness and outrage and profound sorrow for the victims and their families,” Paley said. “It is just an outrage. What we saw at the vigil was a response to that. The mayor and the police chief and city council folks and representatives of faith communities — they all were there.”
The hatred and anger and violence shown in Orlando simply does not have to exist, Paley said: Just a little bit of effort can change the hate and division that leads to these kinds of tragedies, he stated.
“What was expressed at the vigil was that the Jewish ideal of ‘Repairing the World’ is something we need to take seriously and not stand idly by,” the rabbi said.
After Paley addressed the vigil crowd, a rainbow appeared in the sky — which many noticed.
Rabbi Steve Fisch of Congregation Beth El Binah, meanwhile, said the Orlando shootings will not change the tenor of the June 24 pride service that will be held in Room 239 at Northaven United Methodist Church.
“Although our memorial prayers will include a mention of all who have been murdered because of hatred and violence, we will not let a deranged and bigoted individual threaten or destroy who we are,” Rabbi Fisch said.
But Rabbi Jordan Parr of Temple Beth El in Odessa, who will participate in the pride service, said the service will have to change in light of the Orlando tragedy.
“While the details of the service are, of course, up to Rabbi Fisch, the mood will probably be more somber and I expect a special commemoration,” Rabbi Parr said. “I know that my role will reflect this horrific massacre.”
Joshua Manes, president of Congregation Beth El Binah, said it is incidents like the shooting that remind him Pride Month did not start as a celebration.
“It emerged out of a need to self-advocate and defend ourselves among others,” Manes said. “While there have been reasons to celebrate in the last decade, the Orlando killings are proof that hatred isn’t just rhetoric or white noise to be ignored; it grows limbs and unfortunately is all too human.”
Manes said there is still much that needs to be done to promote love and healing in the world.
“It is to that advancement that we will continue our Friends and Family (June 24 Pride) service,” Manes said. “We will neither be defeated by violence nor defined by it.”
Rev. Dr. Neil G. Cazares-Thomas, senior pastor of Cathedral of Hope of Dallas and a participant in the Beth El Binah service, said he believes this tragedy should serve as a catalyst for change.
The Orlando shooter, Omar Mateen, 29, took numerous people hostage during the incident, and went as far as to call 911 and pledge allegiance to ISIS during his rampage.
He subsequently was killed in a shootout with Orlando police.
Omar Mateen had two guns on his person Sunday: a 9mm handgun and a .223 caliber AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle. He had legally purchased the weapons the week of the attacks.
Cazares-Thomas said the lives of those killed and the other 53 injured must not disappear without someone demanding a change in the culture.
“It is time for gun control and the time is now,” Cazares-Thomas said. “… We must call upon our national and local leaders to speak up and speak out against such hatred and prove that America is better than this.”
Cazares-Thomas said he hopes the events in Orlando will change the tone of the country and may serve as a wake-up call to all people of goodwill and peace.
“Hate will not win, but our challenge is to continue to speak from a place of love in the face of such horrendous acts of violence and hatred,” he said.
Cazares-Thomas added that the events in Orlando cannot be separated from the ongoing crime in the Oak Lawn area of Dallas, or from “hate speak” that is allowed to exist in the country.
“You cannot separate these attacks from the attack on the transgender community and which bathroom someone can use,” Cazares-Thomas said. “You cannot separate these attacks from the rhetoric of separation that is attempting to pit one community against another. Religious extremism is religious extremism and does not represent the mainstream of faithful people in this country who live by the golden rule, ‘Do unto others as you would have done unto yourself.’ This translates into every religion and none.”
Combat hate, homophobia, ignorance
Cantor Sheri Allen, spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Shalom in Arlington, also will be one of the participants in the June 24 pride service at Beth El Binah.
Cantor Allen said she believes the Orlando tragedy will ignite an even stronger resolve to combat hate, homophobia and ignorance.
“We, people of different faiths, will be standing together in prayer and support to deliver this message loud and clear on Pride Shabbat,” Allen said. “And it will have an even greater significance and urgency because of this tragedy.”
Once again, Allen said, another hate crime and act of terrorism has been perpetrated upon innocent LGBT victims — this time during June, which is LGBT Pride Month.
“Once again, lives have been lost or forever altered by the heinous acts of one fanatic, causing us once again to ask, ‘How could this happen again?’” the cantor said. “I have no answers. But I do know that we can’t keep silent. We need to honor the too-short lives of the victims instead of giving, as is usually the case, too much air time and print space to the life of the shooter.”
Additionally, the cantor said, “We need to stand beside our Muslim brothers and sisters in condemning this attack and stem what I fear will be a renewed rise of Islamophobia.”
Allen said her daughter, Rebekah Allen, summed the situation up well in an article she penned for Pride magazine online, http://bit.ly/1ro74YN.
Allen wrote, “We have to believe that one day we’ll look at this war on the lives of innocent people in this nation as a horrific stain on our history that we’ve moved on from, though will never forget.”
Parr, meanwhile, said Americans need to decide, now more than ever, that the LGBT community is part of the social fabric — deserving not only protection but love and acceptance.
Parr said America’s leaders must stop issuing platitudes and calls for moments of silence and instead start passing legislation to end the stockpiling of guns in this country.
“We cannot call ourselves a civilized nation unless the horrors of Orlando, San Bernardino, Charleston, Boston, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Columbine, Oklahoma City and countless other massacres are consigned to the history books, never to be repeated on American soil,” he said.

Another response

In direct response to questions about the shooting, Beth El Binah Rabbi Steve Fisch emailed a TJP reporter an address and prayer about the Orlando tragedy from Rabbi Fred Guttman of Temple Emanuel, Greensboro, North Carolina.
“His words express my thoughts much better than I can,” Fisch said.
We live in an increasingly violent nation and world.
On average more than:
– 30,000 Americans are killed by firearms each year.
– 12,000 Americans are murdered by firearms each year.
– 30 Americans are murdered by firearms each day.
– 200 others are wounded by firearms each day.
With 88 guns per 100 people, the United States has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world.
In September 2004, despite the protestations of police departments in our nation, the Assault Weapons Ban was allowed to expire.
In addition, according to police sources, the shooter in Orlando used military style “dum dum” bullets. These bullets are meant to open up inside the target and cause maximum damage. They will not travel through a body. Therefore many of the injured are in very serious shape and might not survive.
We condemn terror in all forms but we will not demonize or discriminate against the vast majority of the 1,700,000,000 Muslims in the world, who are peace loving and peace seeking.
We stand as one with the LGBTQ community worldwide. Our state has recently been attacked, humiliated, and demonized by self-serving politicians. 
We stand with all of us who once again say that hateful rhetoric and only increases the chances that terrible and violent events will become more of a part of our society.
We stand with victims of terror everywhere.
We stand with France.
We stand with San Bernardino.
We stand with Belgium.
We stand with Tel Aviv where this past week a terror attack took the lives of four Jews and injured more than 20 who were eating in a restaurant.
We stand with Orlando.
We stand with victims of terror no matter where they come from, no matter their race, religion, creed or sexual or gender persuasion.
We are all Orlando and we are all Gay.
With a vision of a better world for all of God’s children, we say to all that where there are ignorance and superstition, let there be enlightenment and knowledge.
We say to all that where there are prejudice and hatred, let there be acceptance and love.
We say to all where there are fear and suspicion, let there be confidence and trust.
We say to all where there are tyranny and oppression, let there be freedom and justice.
With a vision of a better world for all of God’s children, we say to all that where there are strife and discord, let there be harmony and peace. (Based upon a prayer written by adapted by Rabbi Chaim Stern from Rabbi John D. Rayner in Service of the Heart, in Gates of Prayer, pages 693-694)
May the one who is blessed, bless and healed all those who are injured.
May the holy one be filled with compassion for their health to be restored and their strength to be revived.
May the One who is truly the Physician and Healer to us all, grant healing and a complete recovery to all of the injured.
May God remember forever our brothers and sisters who died in this horrible tragedy and who have gone to their eternal rest. May they be at one with the One whose life who is life eternal.
Made the beauty of their lives shine eternally and may our lives always bring honor to their memories.
And for our nation we pray.
We pray for healing of the body and soul.
We pray for healing of our people.
We pray for healing the land and peace for every race and nation – every woman, every man, and every child.
O God, please heal us now.
(Based upon Leon Sher’s beautiful song “Heal us Now!”)

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