"Olam Chesed Yibaneh" was written by Rabbi Menachem Creditor of Berkeley, CA. There are many renditions on YouTube: Rabbi Creditor's own performances; one by Cantor Lizzie Weiss of Beverly Hills; and a guitar duet by Octopretzel Videos.
At the Town Garden
I skipped my last chance at Mass
On All Saints' Day.
This was more important.
At five thirty in the evening
In the Robbins Memorial Garden,
We gathered. Sparsely at first.
Always a few who are early.
Then dozens. Then scores.
Local office-holders turned out:
Sean Garballey, Cindy Friedman.
The human rights commission chair.
Representatives from the ADL.
We wrote notes of condolence
To the Tree of Life Synagogue
In Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh.
In my note, I quoted the Psalmist
To pray that we as a nation
Might banish bigotry and bullets
And embody the sacred words:
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
When kindred dwell as one!
Friendly women distributed signs
For the lawn, for the front porch:
Hate has no home here.
And there were badges, pins,
With the same message.
I got one for myself.
The cantor from Temple Isaiah
In neighbouring Lexington
(A woman of forty-five, give or take,
Short of stature, zaftig, cheerful)
Played her guitar and led us in song
In English and Hebrew:
Olam chesed yibaneh;
Build this world from love.
I sang along as best I could.
As dusk fell, we lit our candles.
A hundred, maybe more, bunched thick
In the jacket-and-sweater chill
Of a rainless autumn evening.
I saw a familiar face:
Carol, smiling and silver-haired.
I used to sit alongside her dad
(May he rest) in poetry workshops.
Carol gave me a hug
And I told her, I had to be here.
I noticed half a dozen police officers,
We heard speeches
Detailing the determination
Of the Jewish people
To be peacemakers
In spite of persecution.
We heard outrage
Over words of fear and falsity
From figures of national prominence.
We heard Elie Wiesel's admonition
That the opposite of love
When wax from the candle
Drizzled hot onto my hand,
I blew out the flame
And switched on the beam
Of my cellphone's flashlight.
We gathered to commemorate,
To sing hymns and elegies,
To commit ourselves
To ways of understanding,
To spread light, to be light,
To proclaim to our corner
Of the cornerless world:
A heart of death cannot cut down
The Tree of Life.
Poetry by Thomas DeFreitas
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Written on 2018-11-04 at 08:55
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