U.S. Congressman John Robert Lewis, died Friday, July 17, after serving 33 years in the House. He was 80 years old. I was privileged to hear him speak, to be forever touched by his towering presence and humility, and to be inspired by his words: “Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”

On many occasions, he spoke alongside us — community organizers and arts advocates from all over this nation as we lobbied for government support of the arts. It was an unforgettable experience to be in a room where the air becomes electrified by a man’s very presence and to watch crowds part respectfully as he approaches the podium.

He was a man small in stature but towering in influence. He captured the hearts and the imaginations of those of us around him. Somehow, in those moments, anything and everything seemed possible. At first, his message seems simple, until you understand the weight and urgency of what he proposes. Then it becomes breathtaking.

Today, we should consider his cautions, his calls for respect and dignity. We should recognize our moral obligations toward one another, and the manner in which we regard each other and our leaders in this time of social distancing from behind masks.

Our shul is an endless work in progress, evolving with each generation, with the passage of time, and with the changing cast of characters in leadership positions. As John Lewis advised our delegation of arts advocates, “Yes, yes, never give up, never give in…” May his memory be for a blessing.

Judith K. Weiner