‘Fight hate with love’

Ellis James address members of the Northeastern community as the joined together in Sacred Space in response to the attack on Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue. Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

Ellis James, a first-year student at Northeastern who grew up a block and a half from the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, spoke at a vigil in memory of the 11 people who were killed in a shooting there. James and his family have long attended services at the synagogue. Here is the transcript of his speech, in its entirety.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He causes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters.

He restores my soul; He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

Even as I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for You are

With me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You set a table before me in the presence of my adversaries; You anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows.

May only goodness and kindness pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for length of days.

Mr. Rogers used to say, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers–so many caring people in this world.”

Mr. Rogers’ real-life neighborhood was Squirrel Hill. He lived 3 blocks away from Tree of Life. The house that I grew up in is a block-and-a-half away. My aunt lives across the street. I was two blocks away at the time of the shooting. My grandmother is a regular at the service where 11 people were killed by hate.

But look at the helpers. I was swarmed with texts checking in on me and my family from members of the Northeastern community. Pittsburgh Islamic groups have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to support Tree of Life. People have donated blood and left flowers. There have been vigils everywhere from Australia to Arizona, showing support. These are the helpers. It doesn’t feel like it was just my neighborhood, or Fred Rogers’. It is all our neighborhoods. Together we can fight hate.

So be sad.

Be angry.

But do not hate.

Do not let fear paralyze you into doing nothing.

Fight hate with love.

May the memories of those lost always be a blessing.