At Seattle’s Temple de Hirsch Sinai, Sunday night there was a mournful gathering to respond to the election of Donald J. Trump as the next president of the United States.
The gathering was in the synagogue’s smaller chapel, in front of the big old-fashioned carved aron hakodesh, holy ark, from its old building. The Reform synagogue was founded in the heyday of Seattle’s emergence as a major city in 1889.
Women of the congregation soon began settlement work for the Eastern European Jews flooding America from east and west — many Seattle Jews came from Russia’s eastern port of Vladivostok, and via Shanghai — creating the ancestor of Seattle’s Jewish Family Service, an active social services institution for Seattle’s sick, elderly, needy, and newly arrived.
Led by Temple de Hirsch’s Rabbi Daniel Weiner, Sunday night’s post-election event was sponsored by Jewish Family Service of Seattle, and the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle.
The gathering was indistinguishable from a funeral in tone. Its format was inspirational readings including Langston Hughes and Martin Luther King, Torah, and leaders of the community sharing how shocked and troubled they and their families have felt since Tuesday night.
A representative from Mayor Ed Murray, and state legislators attending, vowed that Seattle and Washington State will remain supportive of immigrant communities, religious minorities, and the needy, despite whatever will be designed in Washington, DC.
What was remarkable was that there was no false optimism that this was not a cataclysm for the Jewish community. It was felt as one that something dreadful has happened to America. Speakers promised the organized Jewish institutions will be in solidarity with Seattle minorities and new immigrants, amid fears for us all.
It was too soon to discuss other things that will become apparent: the meaning of Trump’s alignment with occupation, settlements and a militant Israel, at the same time as his candidacy has manifestly poisoned the American compact that had left Jews if anything too complacent in their status as a “safe” minority.
It was a remarkable moment of communing amid shock, and determination. There was no question that — for those of Seattle’s organized Jewish community — something profoundly sick and destructive has happened that will change our lives.
My pride from the meeting is that the concern was not inward to the fate of Jews, but for the fate of all that compose our Seattle. Solidarity was explicit and matter-of-fact as the expectation going forward into our unknown.