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This very moving piece about Pittsburgh is by the son of my childhood rabbi. The son, Jonathan Berkun, was a very small boy when they left Hamden (CT, my hometown) for Pittsburgh. I did not know until the dreadful news came in from Tree of Life synagogue that that was the shul where Rabbi Alvin Berkun had served, nor that he was now their Rabbi Emeritus. Jonathan is now a rabbi as well, in Florida.

Of all the heartbreaking, soul-inspiring things he writes, the sentence about the waitress is the one that brought tears to my eyes. Shiva is the week of intense mourning that many Jews observe after a death in the family, during which the mourners do not prepare food. Serving a shiva meal in a pizza place: that’s what we will have to do for each other, white for black, non-Jews for Jews, non-Muslims for Muslims, native citizens for immigrants, hetero for LGB, cis for trans, native English speakers for English as a Second Language learners: everyone who has not been the latest salvo’s target for those who have been, because as long as we are united we cannot be defeated.

It makes me double down on my resolve to actively ally with those whose “category” I don’t share, especially African-Americans. I confess my slowness to take up their cause as passionately as my own, to respond as energetically to threats to their children as I do to threats to my own. I ask for their forgiveness, and forbearance as I work to change.

And I have an appeal to other religious leaders. Many of Pittsburgh’s Jewish leaders have told the president that he is not welcome to come to them as long as he is fomenting hate and violence. The murderer’s words were straight out of Trump’s speeches; the vicious, false fantasy of the dangerous refugee is the one Trump stoked and rode to the White House. His presence can do nothing to heal our wounds unless he accepts responsibility for his demagoguery and turns it around 180 degrees. And they are our wounds, not just Jews’ (as they were Saturday in Pittsburgh) or African-Americans’ (as they were on Wednesday in Jeffersontown, Kentucky) or Muslims’ (as they are prevented from traveling) or Mexicans’ and Central Americans’ (as they are in children’s prisons all along the border) or trans* folks’ (as their lives are redefined by the pseudoscience of bigots).

So we should all deliver the same message as those Jewish leaders in Pittsburgh: no politician who is inciting terrorism and enacting fascist policies is welcome in our communities. Trump doesn’t come to the Bay Area anyway, because he only likes to visit cheering crowds, but I’m still drafting a letter from clergy to the White House from my region because it’s what decent people do when others are threatened.

Will you do the same, dear colleagues of all faiths? Will you sign on, dear people of all faiths?

The following is the letter for our region. People of faith of the Bay Area, please “sign” in the comments, and I will compile all the names into a letter, which may be posted online as well as to the press. The names of faith communities and organizations are given for identification purposes only.

To President Trump:

We are faith community leaders and members in the San Francisco Bay Area. Like the leaders in Pittsburgh and tens of thousands of signers who asked you to stay away, we request that you not come to our region until you denounce white nationalism with both your words and your actions.

We have seen the rise of fascism before, and we recognize it in what you are doing and what you are inspiring. Demagogues whip their followers into acts of violence. These leaders need never strike a blow in order to rain down terror upon the people; indeed, many have been less explicit than you. You have urged your followers to beat members of the crowd, “Second Amendment people” to “do something” about Secretary Clinton, and police to slam suspects’ heads into cars. You have hailed as “[your] kind of guy” a thug who assaulted a journalist. Your power is built on scapegoating of the vulnerable.

Furthermore, you spread lies that feed fear and hatred. Your false, frequently-repeated claim that asylum-seekers, refugees and undocumented immigrants commit a disproportionate number of crimes was the reason the killer in Pittsburgh gave for his assault upon a synagogue that helps settle refugees.

You have consistently, repeatedly set yourself up as a threat to innocent people, due process, and democracy itself, and you have sought to enlist your followers to put your threatening words into action. When we look at our nation’s history, we see the times fascism has risen and been put down, and we vow to be this generation’s upholders of justice, democracy, and human rights. Until you uphold them as well, please do not come to the Bay Area.

In faith,


Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern
Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto
and (undersigned)
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