February 23, 2017
March 11th will be Purim this year, a day to read the book of Esther:
“And all the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate bowed down and did obeisance to Haman; for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordecai did not bow down or do obeisance. 3 Then the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate said to Mordecai, ‘Why do you disobey the king’s command?’ 4 When they spoke to him day after day and he would not listen to them, they told Haman, in order to see whether Mordecai’s words would avail; for he had told them that he was a Jew. 5 When Haman saw that Mordecai did not bow down or do obeisance to him, Haman was infuriated. 6 But he thought it beneath him to lay hands on Mordecai alone. So, having been told who Mordecai’s people were, Haman plotted to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus….
“12 Then the king’s secretaries were summoned… 13 Letters were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces, giving orders to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all Jews, young and old, women and children, in one day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods….
“4 When Mordecai learned all that had been done, Mordecai tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and went through the city, wailing with a loud and bitter cry; 2 he went up to the entrance of the king’s gate, for no one might enter the king’s gate clothed with sackcloth.3 In every province, wherever the king’s command and his decree came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting and weeping and lamenting, and most of them lay in sackcloth and ashes.
The week before this is our Ash Wednesday. I will wear my Ash mindful of Modecai’s resistance.
This nation always has incidents of hate, bias and discrimination. Mostly these are isolated and often they are anonymous like the swastika painted on a Rye Brook street in 2010. Sometimes they are not anonymous like the Port Chester home owner who flew a Nazi SS flag to celebrate a soccer victory in 2014. Rye Brook’s menorahs have been vandalized on occasion. There are incidents like the local high school football team that called out “Stalin” for players to run left or “Hitler” for players to run right this past year which are likely lapses in judgement.
The past twelve months we have seen something much worse. Incidents have been more frequent, less anonymous, less responsive to reason and moral exhortation. Incidents have been against Muslims, Jews, Gays and Lesbians, people of color, Asians, Hispanics, immigrants and the undocumented.
In November, a Swastika was found on the Bronx River Parkway jogging path. Local leaders from around the county, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, LGBT, Latino, African-American, Asian-American, youth leaders, and local law enforcement, came together to find solutions. Clergy and community leaders from around Westchester gathered in December for the “Not In Our Towns” demonstration against hate. We are asking supporters to display store window decals and car magnets reading “Not In Our Towns, Westchester NY United Against Hate.” This campaign is also happening around the country due to an increase in assaults and insults targeting people for their race, religion, citizenship status and sexual orientation. Many people were concerned about a gun show in the county convention center. Adding to the concern, among the weapons were pro-Nazi literature and Confederate flags, symbols or terror and atrocities. In recent weeks, there have been four incidents of swastikas near Bedford, on a school playground, on a school bus, in a library and carved into a tree on a High School campus.
We see hatred like this around the country and groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center are watching and reporting. On one recent Monday 11 Jewish community centers across the country received threatening phone calls and bomb threats, forcing closures and evacuations. Since the beginning of the year, there have been 67 such incidents in 27 states and one Canadian province. The coordinated threats often target multiple organizations in the same hour.
We cannot be silent in the face of this wave of hate.
Please join NOT IN OUR TOWNS’ call for a strong, clear response to this attempt to grow hatred and incite fear. Please join the 900 members of our facebook page at
or contact St. Paul’s Lutheran Church at 914 939-8170
Hate cannot be ignored and it is dangerous to underestimate how fast it can spread and how strong it can grow. We are seeing that increase now. Let all the diverse members of our community stand together.
In this climate St. Paul’s has decided to make a clearer stand about affirming diversity in our gatherings. Last month our council adopted a statement of welcome:
“We welcome all who are seeking God’s love and grace. We welcome all because God welcomes all. We encourage young children to participate and make their presence known. We are many races and cultures, different sexual orientations, gender identities and families of various configurations and single people. We come from a wide variety of places on earth and individual spiritual journeys. We are various stages of life, differing abilities and health statuses, and economic circumstances. Our unity is in Christ who calls for us to reject division and discrimination.”
In our scripture it is written: “In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” – Galatians 3
There is no clearer call for our congregations than to speak against this climate of fear, hate and violence on behalf of every group that is targeted.