Shabbat Unity Service: “I Am My Brother’s Keeper”

East Of Eden  by  Mick Wiggins  (2008)

East Of Eden by Mick Wiggins (2008)


I sat in silence for what felt like hours. I scrolled through one article after another, learning about the eleven who perished in their synagogue – The place they called home. I read about the committed congregant remembered as "the most wonderful grandpa.” The Shabbat “regulars” who were the first to arrive and the last to leave. The uncles and cousins who were pillars of their community. I read about the 97 year-old women who was described as “vivacious” – “So full of life.” The couple who walked their dog and baked treats for their neighbors. I read about the doctor who sat with his elderly patients – The one who no one could ever imagine retiring. The wife, mother and grandmother, who prayed each week for her late husband. I read about the “gentle soul” revered as “the most beloved person in the community.”

And the only thought I could formulate underneath my tears where: “This is us. We’re those people.” We’re that small Temple with the same member whose never missed a day. We’re that committed father “always trying to help somebody.” We’re the proud breast cancer survivor who sits in the same place each week - This is us. This is us. I’ve never met those who perished this past week, but I know them in my heart. I can see their smiles. I can hear their words of welcome. I can feel their hugs as I enter shul each week to pray. Weather it’s Pittsburgh, Louisville, or Macon. This is us.

[Rabbi Hillel] used to say: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, then when?”
— Pirkei Avot 1:14

Tonight, on this day of holy rest, the Jewish community of Macon is not alone. All of you are here for us. Collectively, we are strong. We are resilient. We are united. We will be there for one another. Because we share in the bonds that uplift humanity to its highest of heights. But also stand alongside one another during moments of strife. Times of mourning and sadness. Tonight, let us witness first-hand that we here in Macon will never stand idly by the blood of our neighbors. That we will never stand idly by. Period.

Because I am my brother’s keeper.

Aaron Sataloff