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Throughout his worshipping life, Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz always stood up, each week, during the prayer of mourning. Though it is considered more traditional to only stand when one is personally grieving, Dr. Rabinowitz steadfastly rose nevertheless. He had no children himself, no descendants guaranteed to stand for him when his own death came, and so he stood, determined to represent those who had no one to stand for them. To commemorate and celebrate and offer respect for the wonder and dignity of each life as it was remembered in corporate prayer.

This week, Dr. Rabinowitz was one of 11 people killed at his synagogue in Pittsburgh by a white supremacist anti-Semite.

Who will rise for Dr. Rabinowitz?

Who will stand unshakeable like the Tree of Life, echoed in name of the synagogue that was attacked?

It is not someone else’s responsibility. The most important course I took in college was on the Holocaust, where our professor made painfully clear over sixteen weeks that the Holocaust happened not because of some kind of nameless evil concentrated in a few, but because of deliberate choices made by everyday people systematically over centuries. By Christian people–who used their theology to justify these deliberate choices of hatred and suspicion, who intentionally made laws to dispossess and murder. But by Christian people, too, who deliberately chose not to respond on the scale and with the force required, who failed to speak out against injustices, small and large. Both are culpable. And neither is in the past.

Who will rise for Dr. Rabinowitz?

We begin by saying their names,
by grieving the loss of these children of God:
Joyce Fienberg
Richard Gottfried
Rose Mallinger
Jerry Rabinowitz
Cecil and David Rosenthal
Bernice and Sylvan Simon
Daniel Stein
Melvin Wax
Irving Younger

And then, we pray:
Exalted and hallowed be God’s great name in the world which God created, according to plan.
May God’s majesty be revealed in the days of our lifetime and the life of all Israel — speedily, imminently, to which we say: Amen.
Blessed be God’s great name to all eternity.
Blessed, praised, honored, exalted, extolled, glorified, adored, and lauded be the name of the Holy Blessed One, beyond all earthly words and songs of blessing, praise, and comfort.
To which we say: Amen.
May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us and all Israel. To which we say: Amen.
May the One who creates harmony on high, bring peace us and to all Israel. To which we say: Amen.

And then, we must rise.

Jennifer L. Holberg

I’ve taught English at Calvin College since 1998–where I get to read books and talk about them for a living. What could be better? Along with my wonderful colleague, Jane Zwart, I am the co-director of the Calvin Center for Faith and Writing, which is the home of the Festival of Faith and Writing as well as a number of other exciting endeavors. Given my interest in teaching, I’m the founding co-editor of the Duke University Press journal Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition and Culture (and yes, I realize that that is a very long subtitle). I also do various administrative things across campus. As an Army brat, I’ve never lived anywhere as long as I’ve now lived in Grand Rapids. I count myself rich in friends and family. I enjoy kayaking and hiking. I collect cookbooks (and also like to cook), listen to all kinds of music, and watch all manner of movies and tv shows. I love George Eliot, Jane Austen, Marilynne Robinson, Dante, E.M. Delafield, Tennyson, Hopkins, and Charlotte Bronte (among others). And I have a bumper sticker on my car that says: “I’d rather be reading Flannery O’Connor.” Which is true.


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