Sunday, July 22, 2012

My remarks at the Aurora Prayer Vigil

Tonight I participated in a prayer vigil at the Aurora Civic Plaza. Many people from around the country saw the proceedings live on national television. From my perspective, sitting on the dais, the scene was somewhat surreal. There was a sea of faces - tens of thousands of people - all coming together to find some comfort in the days following a terrible event.  The pain and the hope in the crowd were both palpable. 

For me, the most powerful moments came when the families of the slain and the wounded were ushered in to the proceedings.  As I looked at the faces of these men, women and children – some in wheelchairs or crutches, others carrying pictures of loved ones who had died – my heart broke.  We had been hearing about numbers and statistics for so long – now we were seeing, face to face, the true toll of evil. 

There were many aspects of the vigil that were beautiful.  Other parts of the event could have been different – especially the lack of any Islamic presence in the program.   Aurora has the largest mosque in Colorado.  There are many Muslims living in the city.  I hope that the lack of a representative was due to the fact that we are now in the time of Ramadan – and no one was able to be there. 
The fact that the vast majority of the prayers and hymns offered were Christian – with specific Christological references -  made some of the Jewish dignitaries on the dais uncomfortable.  As someone who has participated in similar events for many years now, it didn’t surprise me.  After 25 years in the Rabbinate I know that the only way to avoid this is to engage in a process of dialogue and discussion.  Clearly, we have our work cut out for us.  And yet,  this was not a time to bring this up.  That can wait until the future. 
What follows are my remarks.  Thank you to the many people who texted, tweeted and posted comments on my Facebook page in response to the televised broadcast.
A Prayer for Peace – in the Aftermath of Terror
City of Aurora Prayer Vigil
Rabbi Joseph R. Black- Temple Emanuel – Denver, CO
July 22, 2012
Our God and God of all People,
God of the rich and God of the poor.

God  of the faceless and God of the famous.

God of the victims and God of all who cry out on their behalf.
God of those who have no God:
We have come together at this sacred and solemn hour to pray for peace. 
These past days have been filled with horror.
We have seen the devastating effects of Violence on those killed and injured –on their loved ones – and on those who may have escaped physical violence but who bear painful wounds deep within their souls.
We have held tightly to our children and played out the scenarios of “what ifs” and “why nots” over and over again in our minds.
We are drained.
We are in pain.
And we are angry.
Tonight we pray:  spread over us the shelter of Shalom - of peace – knowing full well that peace can seem out of reach in the aftermath of devastation. 
Help us to see the potential for holiness that resides within each of us.
We have felt your healing presence in the outpouring of love and caring that binds this community together.
We have witnessed your love in moments of clarity that cut through the deafening sorrow that fills our hearts and our homes.
We have learned of selfless acts of courage that stir our souls and remind us of the inherent goodness you have implanted within us.

Guide us to see the good in the midst of evil.

Grant us peace – Your most precious gift – and help us to be partners with You in shining the light of peace in the darkest corners of Your creation.

Oseh Shalom Bimromav – He Ya-ahseh Shalom Ahleynu va’l Kol B’nai Adam
May the One who makes peace in the High Heavens –send peace to us and  to all Creation.
And let us say:  AMEN


  1. Thanks for all you are doing Joe. It is good to hear words of prayer that sound so familiarly Jewish. Our prayers are with you.

    Additionally, so many people are wanting to focus on processes to control people's access to firearms. But, I think the real culprit is mental healthcare which is barely existent in this nation which lacks even any recognizable healthcare system. Mostly, the lack of health insurance to so many, an insurance that covers mental health on a par with physical health for almost any health insurance plan creates the cracks that people like this sick young man fell into. We need to recognize that mental health is a long term process for healing. It is not like getting a sinus infection and going to the doctor, getting a course of antibiotics, and then you feel better in a couple of days. Unfortunately, we gauge these decisions on costs, dollars and cents, and decimal points. As Jews we pray for Me Shebarach (sp?), both physical and spiritual healing. I think afflictions of the mind fall under both. Let's pray we can recognize that we have an opportunity to act courageously against entrenched interests and attitudes to make the changes to our nation's healthcare system that will help to prevent these kinds of disasters.

  2. I was very impressed with and moved by the prayer vigil which I saw this morning on Fox News (from Israel. And what a surprise to see that a rabbi - you - had been invited to speak as well. Your words were very comforting (in spite of the small change you made in the prayer). Kol HaKavod! May HaShem give comfort to the survivors and to the families who were affected by this senseless act.

  3. Kol HaKavod, You are one of the lights in the darkness of this event.

    I do get your point about the lack of true interfaith component of the service and you are right the discussion is for another time. But it is a needed in many places.

  4. Proud. Very proud to have your articulate, compassionate voice speak with love, representing us all.

  5. Thank you for being a rock for the people who are in need.


  6. Acknowledging the pain, reaching out to those affected, praise for the brave, hope for the future. An exquisite example of the best a rabbi has to offer. I am proud to be a colleague.
    Paula Goldberg. NyY '93