A Reflection from the Interpath Traditions
by Thomas P. Bonacci, C.P.
October 30, 2021
When I was a little boy, a Rabbi from the neighborhood would often walk me to school. I am sorry to say I have forgotten his name. His beard was stately, his eyes deep, and he was funny and loving. One day he told me, “Be good to the Nuns who dedicated themselves to you and kind to your Mother who gave you life.” He would bless me with his smile. It is incredible to me how, after all these years, I can see his face. Even now, I feel ever so blessed.
I loved the study of religion and continue to ponder the many ways people discover, experience, and celebrate the Divine. My old Pittsburgh, PA neighborhood was religiously diverse. Three Synagogues, two Catholic Churches, a beautiful Episcopal Church, one Kingdom Hall, and a variety of hidden away chapels, sanctuaries, and gathering sights. Holidays were vibrant with the richness of whatever Feast was upon us. Little did I know how wonderful was my boyhood neighborhood.
I passed the Tree of Life Synagogue every day on my way to school. I longed to see its sanctuary. My Rabbi companion arranged a visit. My friends and I entered the great building with a sense of wonder. The sanctuary touched my heart. I was in the Presence of the Holy One whose Word was honored here as the Word of Life.
As the suburbs grew, the old neighborhoods began to decline. Urban development recreated everything familiar into something strange and distant. Like everything else in the neighborhood, the Tree of Life Synagogue relocated. I visited the new building remembering the Rabbi, the community, and Holidays of the old neighborhood. The memories touched my life and blessed me.
Three years ago this week, on October 27, 2018, a man with a gun in his hand and hatred in his heart entered the Tree of Life Synagogue and murdered eleven people gathered in prayer. My heart still breaks for those who were murdered and wounded. If the true sanctuary has no walls, the true community has no distance. I grieve every day for what has happened to my beloved community. I pledge anew to stop the violence, cease the hatred, honor the deceased, and bind up the wounds of the broken-hearted.
We must reexamine our hearts to free ourselves of any prejudice we might harbor. We must reform our religious teachings, beliefs, and practices so no one will ever be threatened or harmed by our practice of religion. We must vote for political and civil leaders who do not gain popularity through the politics of hate. We must reach out to those who are broken and hurting, offering them our friendship and love.
The Tree of Life Synagogue will always be in my heart. Its people will always be the blessing of my life. I will unroll the scroll of memory, I will honor those who were murdered, and with them, I will cry out to the World, “Never again!”
Blessings to you, Holy Community, for all the times you bless others with your love, understanding, and care.
As things begin to return to a new normal, we at The Interfaith Peace Project are here for you in any way that you need us. The Antioch Center is now open to fully vaccinated people on Wednesdays, from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm. We are vigilant and will adjust to any and all recommendations from the state and county. We will continue our work through Zoom as we add in person programs. If you would like to schedule an in person or Zoom program or would like a phone appointment with any of us, give us a call. You may call or email Tom at: