A Small Sign of Solidarity

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. -- Religious leaders are coming together in Wilkes-Barre to show solidarity in the wake of deadly attacks motivated by hatred.

The minister of the First Presbyterian Church was inspired by how people came together shortly after the deadly shooting last month at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.

He doesn't want solidarity to stop there, though. He wants to continue to promote acceptance, even if it means starting with something small.

If you've worshiped at a Presbyterian church before, you may recognize the hymns or the prayers, but something you may not recognize at this particular service are the yarmulkes worn by, not Jews, but Christians.

"I said what about wearing kippahs, yarmulkes in a church whenever we get together, which is today. Then it evolved into why don't we ask other churches to do the same thing," said Rev. Dr. Bob Zanicky, First Presbyterian Church of Wilkes-Barre.

After the massacre of Jewish community members in Pittsburgh late last month, Zanicky says he's been looking for ways to bring members of different faiths together, so he gave yarmulkes to 12 others churches in the area.

The yarmulkes worn by church-goers throughout the Wyoming Valley say "Together we stand." Underneath is a Hebrew word: "Shalom," which means peace.

"The Hebrew word shalom, it's easy to remember, but for them to have something in Hebrew that's theirs, that's important too," said Rabbi Larry Kaplan, Temple Israel.

In addition to the yarmulkes, Zanicky invited Rabbi Kaplan to speak to his congregation during the service.

"He was very informative with the children. A lot of the children didn't know what a yarmulke was, and they all had them on, so he showed them that it was support from above and that we're watched over from above and that's what the true meaning of the yarmulke is," said Mary Louise Harris of Wilkes-Barre.

Zanicky hopes this interfaith service and wearing yarmulkes will inspire other congregations to join him in acts of solidarity.

"Maybe give them some ideas in terms of this pulpit exchange. We didn't invent this, Rabbi Kaplan and I. It was with us, but it worked out well and we love doing it," Zanicky said.

While Kaplan says he's thrilled by the support, there is still a harsh reality for him to face at his own place of worship.

"Next Saturday, we're still going to have to have police officers at our building, and the board pretty much voted that we're going to continue that," said Kaplan.

Zanicky does not want the gestures and demonstrations of solidarity to end anytime soon. He hopes if churches support each other and other faiths, maybe there won't be any more attacks like the one in Pittsburgh.