Dear fellow clergy, distinguished guests, my neighbors,

Today, I want to reflect on how we, as a community, Christian and Jewish and Muslim, Black and White, all cherish the place called Zion.

In our traditions, Zion is a mountain in Jerusalem. Zion is where we built a structure worthy of God. Zion’s rocky edges and stone paths all glisten with the divine light of God’s love.

Zion is the place God chose to inspire us, radiating the divine light that illuminates our path. It beckons us to improve ourselves and our world. Zion’s light penetrates the cracks that are our imperfections, unseals our closed eyes, and warms our cold hearts.

Each week in synagogues, Jews read a portion of the Torah, the five books of Moses, a source of wisdom and inspiration. As we remove the Torah from its ark, we chant, “Ki Mitziyon Teytze Torah” – from Zion comes learning. From Zion comes law. From Zion comes Godliness.

When we seek Zion, we seek God. When we seek Zion, we strive to spread Godliness through our words and actions. Our pursuit of Zion aligns with the goodness that God intends for all humanity. It reminds us that we lead by our example, sharing the divine values of compassion, justice, and equality.

In Potomac, we have our own place which is Zion, the Scotland AME Zion Church. Four years have passed since flooding waters ravaged the church. The waters engulfed the building.  But God is greater than the raging waters. As the Psalmist taught us, the waters will pass, and God remains with us. And now we, all of us, together, must rebuild the church.

Why is rebuilding this place a joint effort? I turn to the Jewish philosopher Franz Rosenzweig. Rosenzweig understood the basis of our religions to be the ongoing revelation of God’s message. God’s words are not history. They are verses that continue to reverberate throughout the ages, speaking to us even today, every day. This understanding holds great significance for both Judaism and Christianity. As God continues to speak, it is our responsibility to listen attentively. To listen to God is to respond faithfully.

God asks us to pursue Zion. To seek Zion is to create a world where the Divine word, revelation, is heard and cherished above all else. A world unblemished by racism and antisemitism. A world free of poverty and defilement, greed and pride, hatred, and inequality.

Through our shared experiences, we must develop empathy and understanding for each other’s struggles. This empathy can motivate us to stand up against all forms of prejudice and bigotry. This understanding compels us to care for each other’s spiritual homes as if they were our own.

Our mutual traditions emphasize justice, fairness, and respect for all human beings. As we all respond to the call to build and rebuild Zion, we dismantle the barriers that separate us.

American ideals, Christian morals, and Jewish principles have endured and continue to endure despite the hatred that persists in our country. Racism and anti-Semitism are twin children of an evil ancestor born out of ignorance and prejudice. Good people have the power to combat these hateful ideologies. We must combine social action with inner spiritual work, building with the bricks of our humanity, and assembling a community in a place called Zion.

Let us engage in open dialogue, educate ourselves and others, and actively participate in efforts to create a more inclusive and equitable society. Let us be advocates for righteousness. Let us be neighbors and friends. Let us rebuild Zion in our own community.

The psalmist wrote, by the waters of Babylon, we sat down, and we wept as we remembered Zion. Today I sing a new song, by the waters that ruined the Scotland AME Zion Church, we do not sit and weep, but we rebuild Zion.

May the ongoing revelation of God’s words guide us on this journey, illuminating our path and inspiring us to create together a world that reflects the light of Zion. May God bless us with the strength, wisdom, and compassion to eradicate racism and hatred. And together, may we create a renewed Zion.

In honor of Juneteenth,

June 18, 2023

Rabbi Evan J. Krame