David Fink, who runs a storytelling show in Chicago, is a congregant of the Loop Synagogue, the one that was vandalized last Shabbat. He talked to us about his take onthis horrible event: “it doesn’t matter what we believe. It matters how we act”.
“I feel like there are going to be a lot of gatherings to protest hatred,” David Fink tells A Wider Bridge Chicago. “I remember, as a child, going to my family to protest French president Pompidou when he visited Chicago. At the time, he was selling planes to Egypt, an enemy of Israel. Being surrounded by people protesting an injustice feels like there is strength in numbers and we live in a country where we can express our dissatisfaction and we are going to use that right. Gathering with people of different faiths who share the values of freedom of religion feels more important than just Jews protesting against the vandalism to a synagogue. We are not alone. We are responding in a positive yet defiant manner.
“I would attend a protest against the violation of a mosque. Or a church. I believe that it doesn’t matter what we believe. It matters how we act. We need to act in a manner that is good for society and that means treating each other with respect. I felt like every person in the shul was protesting against an act of hate and going out of their way to show that they care and they will not tolerate these kinds of threats.”
Fink,57, grew up in Lincolnwood. He attended Hebrew school and Hebrew high school at Lincolnwood Jewish Congreation (now LJCAGBI.).”Rabbi Lehrfield was on sabbatical for my bar-mitzvah, so Rabbi Kroll officiated,” he recalls. “The shul is traditional,so the service is similar to orthadox but men and women can sit and pray together. I grew up in a kosher home and my siblings both keep kosher. I connect to Judaism through my family. I go to shul whenever my mother goes. It is more important to me that I participate with my family than having a personal spiritual connection.”
Fink is also active in the LGBTQ community, in a large part, through his show called OUTspoken!, where he book LGBTQ people who are out to tell personal true stories. “By understanding each other, we become more connected,” he explains. “I think Judaism emphasizes storytelling and communication and the culture puts a huge value on community. You need a minyan to pray. Many things are done as a community. There is a connection with each other. LGBTQ is similar in that, in some sense, we are all outsiders who have something in common. I think Jews and LGBTQ are often aware of the politics of our surroundings.”
David started going to Loop Synagogue in 2006 after the passing of his father. “I went to minyan almost every day and Loop Synagogue was the most convenient comfortable place for me when I was in Chicago,” he says. “I have been a member there since 2006. I don’t identify as orthodox but Rabbi Kroll was a familiar face and there were other members who I knew from LJC who attended. I was made to feel comfortable there even though I am not orthodox. I was often given the Aliyah of Kohen. I felt welcome and included. I still go there for yartzeit.”
What went through your mind when you learned about this act of vandalism towards the synagogue?
“I felt angry and sad. I have been around other acts of vandalism and hatred and it is a reminder that we have a lot of work ahead of us. I often wonder why the Jews are so often the targets of hatred. When will that ever change?”
On February 8, David joined Love Thy Neighbor gathering, where Jewish, Muslim and Christian faith and community leaders spoke out against intolerance and acts of hate against the synagogue.
“I heard about the gathering and posted on Facebook that I planned on attending,” David says. “Three of my gay friends, none of whom are Jewish, notified me that they wanted to attend with me. We all met and entered together. I think it was the first time any of these friends had entered a synagogue. Having them with me felt like a protective hug. Not only did they verbalize their anger at the violation, they gave their time and joined me in person to share their support. We entered the sanctuary and had to sit on steps since all the seats were full. There were a lot of people who did not look alike bringing a positive yet angry and righteous energy. I feel like there are a lot of people who will go out of their way to show they will not tolerate these acts of hatred against us. The speakers were eloquent, sometimes intellectual and sometimes emotional, but always inclusive. They talked about defying acts of hatred or prejudice against any religion. Or atheism. Or LGBTQ. I felt hopeful and connected with the community. The room had politicians and faith leaders and Holocaust survivors, and friends, and strangers all listening actively and responding to the gathering. I felt like the response was appropriate and beautiful and heartening.”
“We can gather and unite in many places. We can meet in bars. We can gather in synagogues. And we can unite in protest against injustice. I believe these protests have impact and are good for the soul.”