Letter From a Vagabond 29 October 2018 Tell me what more, please…



Alvin Berkun was, for many years, a member of the Board of NICC, the parent organization of Odyssey, which was, for many years, my client.  We met at various functions; I didn’t know him well.  He seemed an amiable chap, a rabbi from some congregation somewhere with some kind of reputation which had put him on the Board.

What I did not know, until Saturday, was that Alvin had retired as the Rabbi of the synagogue in Pittsburgh that was the target of a horrific shooting.

His wife was not feeling well Saturday morning, so Alvin did not attend services, opting to stay home with her.  So, he was not with the congregation when a man charged in with AR-15 style gun and killed 11 of Alvin’s former congregants.  Allegedly, the shooter is man named Robert Bowers, who allegedly told police, as he was carried out on a stretcher, wounded, after wounding four policemen, that he wanted all Jews dead.

We all sometimes play the game of six degrees of separation; we are only six degrees away from anyone.  In this case, I am only one degrees away from the people who died.  They were Alvin’s people and I know Alvin, not well but enough he knows who I am.

It follows upon a man who allegedly sent pipe bombs to Trump critics and follows a man who allegedly killed two black people because they were black.

The word “allegedly” is used because they have not been convicted so there is a presumption of innocence though it seems hard for me, not a news person, to think it was more than “allegedly” when someone is carried out on a stretcher after a gun fight at the location, calling out for the death of Jews.

But I will say “allegedly.”

This is the message I sent Alvin:  There are no words to describe what I feel and what I would like to say to you.  Just know that you and all your congregation are in my thoughts and in my prayers.  At this moment, I am traveling in Europe.  At my next stop, I will continue a tradition I started when I was a young Catholic — to light a candle for things I want to hold up to God.

I will hold Alvin and his congregation up to God in the Abbey just outside my hotel door.

But the thought plagues me as to what I might do in the real world to stop this violence; it is good to hold up the dead and wounded to God, but I am a human being living in the world in which this is happening and I want to know what action I can take to help stop this madness?

The NY Times posted horrific photos showing the results of the famine that is happening in Yemen as MBS, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, pursues his war there, a proxy fight with Iran, and I recoiled from the truth of man’s inhumanity to man and wanted to know what action could be taken to stop this madness.

The ones most affected are children, twisted by extreme famine into horrors of humanity while in Pittsburgh, another human created another horror and what can I/we do to stop this madness against humanity?

Yes, I have voted.  But what more?

Tell me. Please.


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