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#StandWithCharleston interfaith vigil brings more than 1,000 to Barclays Center

June 23, 2015 By Francesca Norsen Tate, Religion Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Rabbi Ellen Lippmann of Congregation Kolot Chayeinu invites people to start dialogues with each other. Standing with her in foreground are: noted civil rights activist Norman Siegel and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. In background are Rev. David Cousins of Bridge Street A.M.E. Church, City Councilmember Jumaane Williams and Public Advocate Letitia James. Eagle photo by Francesca Norsen Tate
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More than 1,000 Brooklynites turned out Sunday night at a #StandWithCharleston interfaith prayer vigil at Barclays Center, expressing the need for a deeper dialogue and understanding of each other.

They joined similar rallies and vigils being held around the United States on Father’s Day, in the wake of the mass shooting at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17, to show solidarity for the victims, their loved ones, and to declare that Brooklynites are one family.   

Before the program, Adams, who organized the Brooklyn rally, invited the Muslim participants to conclude their daily observance of Ramadan with prayer and break-the-fast.

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The clergy speakers included the Rev. David B. Cousins of Bridge St. African Methodist Episcopal Church, Rabbi Ellen Lippmann of Congregation Kolot Chayeinu, Pastor David Maldonado of NYPD Clergy Liaison, Debbie Almontaser of the Muslim Consultative Network and Imam Abraham.

One of the organizers was Pastor Gilford Monrose, the Borough President’s director of Faith-Based and Clergy Initiatives.

Several elected officials offered impassioned remarks. Speakers included noted civil rights activist Norman Siegel, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, City Councilmembers Jumaane Williams and Laurie Cumbo, Public Advocate Letitia James and State Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon.

Adams opened by discussing the number of people who had told him and other elected representatives that they were in mourning and in pain over the Mother Emanuel Church massacre. “They wanted an opportunity to show the entire country that just as Carolina was with us when we experienced the September 11 attacks on our towers, we are there for them when they experienced their acts of terror. When I look out at the faces of the various groups who are here, it makes me proud to be the president of the borough of compassionate, caring kind people. And I thank you for that.”

Pastor David B. Cousins of Bridge St. A.M.E. Church said that Rev. Clementa Pinkney was a personal friend of his, so the grief wore heavily on his heart. Pastor Cousins described receiving a bouquet of flowers and a note upon entering his own house of worship. He shared the contents of the letter.  The writer, who self-identified as a white member of the community who experienced great welcome since moving to Bedford-Stuyvesant in 2011, said that “the hatred [the killer] represents is the view of a small and dying minority, and that tolerance, love and mutual respect are and shall be the norm.”

Rabbi Ellen Lippmann pointed out that she was wearing a prayer shawl that is not normally worn at night because the fringes on the corners “remind us in the way we live. We can only see them in the daytime.  I put it on to remind me — and I hope remind all of us — that here we have a lot of remembering to do — remembering of the way God wants us to live, of the way that people should be living with one another. And I put it on to say that as a Jew, and as a white woman in Brooklyn, we have an additional responsibility to say, ‘What are we white people doing about the racism in our country right now?’”

Rabbi Lippmann then recited a prayer that she taught to the gathering, as each of the attendees repeated the prayer to each other, a portion of which is: “O God, help us lie down in peace, and help us get up tomorrow in peace.”

Later in the program, Adams said, “We must teach children not to hold the cold steel of a gun, but the warm hand of another in friendship. This is how we Stand With Charleston… We must turn pain into purpose as we Stand With Charleston. Let’s embrace our diversity. Brooklyn must lead the way.”

Adams recited the names of each of the nine victims of the Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church shooting, and had the gathering repeat each name. The crowd, holding lit candles, then formed a huge circle around the perimeter of Barclays Center.

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