Kristallnacht

Broken GlassDespite the flurry of activity in the last few weeks, I’m still haunted by the eucharist we had at LTSP on Nov. 9 – the commemoration of Kristallnacht, “The Night of Broken Glass.” This was the night in 1938 when the Nazis showed their true colors and began their campaign of terror against the Jews in Europe. On that night, storm troopers went throughout Germany and Austria attacking synagogues, smashing the windows of Jewish businesses and rounding up Jews (30,000) to take them to the new concentration camps. On that night, which left streets covered in broken glass, everything changed. It became clear to the Jewish community that the racist policies of the Nazis were not benign but could, and would, turn violent. It was clear to the Nazis that they could unleash such violence and get away with it – other governments might protest but they would not intervene, nor would their own citizens. On that night, with very few exceptions, the Church, even the Confessing Church, was silent. The Jews knew they were on their own.

For the first time at LTSP, we remembered the costly silence of the church that night and in the days and years afterward. But the accent was not on a paralyzing guilt nor a cheap grace ... but on healing. We were joined by Rabbi Liz Bolton and the choir of Mishkan Shalom Synagogue. Together we sang a musical adaptation of Pastor Martin Niemoller’s words as a prayer of confession, “By my silence, I give my consent.” All were invited to the Table where bread, wine, and a blessing were offered. I stood on one side of the table and the Rabbi on the other, giving blessing to all, including those who did not take the bread and cup. It was a powerful moment, reminding us of our common heritage as people of the covenant.  It also gave us a way forward.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer had told his seminarians the day after Kristallnacht, “Only those who cry out for the Jews can sing the Gregorian Chant.” Perhaps he was echoing the Hebrew scripture for the day, beautifully chanted by Rabbi Bolton: “I hate, I despise your festivals ... but let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream.” (Amos 5: 21-24) This is the fast God desires,  which together, the people of the Abrahamic faiths can pursue.