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important gathering

Afterward, I asked Fin (our seven- year-old) what he thought he would remember about the experience. The word he used was that it was "important." Which led me to ask Nelson (our eleven- year-old) how he'd sum up what we'd participated in. His word was "gathered." And Nelson was very conscious of and impressed by the wide array of people and faiths represented, as we stood with, I suppose, a couple of hundred Richmonders on Sunday, at the Emek Sholom Holocaust Memorial Cemetery.  

The occasion was, as you may know, another "Standing Together" event. For roughly a year and a half now, with the organizing help of the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities, Richmonders have been coming together for interfaith events around the city (previously at Beth Ahabah, 3rd Street Bethel A.M.E., and the Islamic Center) to demonstrate that we stand with  and by  and for one another, especially anyone whose dignity, rights, and safety are under threat.  

The event this Sunday, at Emek Sholom, was in response to the recent upsurge in anti-Semitic activity, especially the desecration of Jewish graves, across the country and around the world. 

On the way to the cemetery, I quoted, to the best of my ability, Martin Niemöller's words to the boys:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

The event culminated with an invitation to take a stone and leave it atop the Holocaust memorial there. Which the boys and I solemnly participated in, along with everyone else there.

Since Sunday, as I've thought back on the experience, I have thought about, among other things, how attentive my boys were for the hour that the speakers spoke so thoughtfully and a Jewish cantor sang so beautifully. The boys stood stock still for the whole hour, on the hard pavement of a cemetery road, on a chilly day, and they watched and they listened carefully. And there were no complaints.

They could tell, it was an important gathering.