Peoria Chabad holds memorial service

Chabad of Peoria held a memorial service on Sunday morning for the two Chabad schlichim (emissaries) who were killed by terrorists in Mumbai, India, last week. Rabbi Eli Langsam, who, with his wife, Sarah, is the Chabad emissary to Peoria, Ill., led the chanting of Psalms, gave a brief assessment of the lives of Rabbi Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg’s lives and urged Jews to perform mitzvot (commandments) as a way of honoring the memory of the Holtzbergs. Langsam offered men the chance to do just that before they left, helping them to don tefillin.

Langsam, who knew Rabbi Holtzberg, struggled emotionally through some parts of the half-hour service, choking up at a couple points during the Psalms and a memorial prayer.

About 30 people attended the service, all of them members of the Peoria Jewish community except for me and my son, Nathaniel. I have to say that I was disappointed by the lack of turnout by Peoria Christians. Granted, the weather wasn’t great, but the roads were clear. Perhaps the problem was that it hadn’t been widely publicized or that it was held on Sunday morning, during church. But I think an overflow attendance by Christians who decided to mourn alongside the Jewish community would have been a better witness to our faith than attendance at church on this particular Sunday morning. After all, if as followers of Messiah we are grafted into Israel (Romans 11), then, whether the Jewish community acknowledges it or not, they are our brothers and sisters. At the very least, we worship the same God. Rabbi Langsam expressed appreciation that my son and I showed up. Too bad he couldn’t have expressed appreciation that dozens, or hundreds, of Christians had shown up.

Kudos to the Peoria Journal Star and WEEK-TV, Channel 25, for sending reporters and a photographer. I was interviewed by 25, and did a pretty wretched job. After 30 years as a journalist, I’m fine when I’m on the questioning side, but am tongue tied on the answering side.

Peoria Life Chain

Gates of Eden Messianic Congregation member Kathy Levine holds a sign while standing in the median on Northmoor Road near University Street at Oct. 5’s LIfe Chain rally in Peoria.
Photo by Diana Glenn courtesy Peoria Journal Star, Copyright 2008


Sunday’s Life Chain in Peoria, Ill., an event intended to draw public attention to the abortion tragedy, drew more people (400-500) than last year’s rally against abortion, but failed to link Esther House, a ministry for women, to the city’s abortion mill. Granted, such a feat was challenging, given the approximately two miles of people standing every 20-25 feet it would have required. But we could have and should have done much better.

Not that it was a waste of time. By no means. We managed, I believe, to get the message out to the many motorists who passed. As they drove by, they saw signs with messages like “Abortion Kills Children” and “Pray for an end to abortion.” But what was even more important was that they saw families out there. They saw children who had not been aborted. They didn’t see any of the 40 million children who have been aborted.

We’ve got to do a better job next year of getting more people out there. A co-worker of mine who took part suggested we move the rally to a different site with more traffic, although the streets we stood along, Northmoor and University, were pretty busy with traffic. One lady from our church, Gates of Eden Messianic Congregation, even stood on a median on Northmoor to make sure passing cars saw her sign. Thirty-nine Gates of Eden members took part.

Providence Church was out in force again. You could tell that as they arrived from their new digs in Morton in — according to my son’s count — seven conversion vans. Last year, the Covenant Presbyterian congregation brought 93 members to the chain.

One of their members, James Lansberry, ventured out onto a median strip on Northmoor late toward the end of the hour to stir us up with a reminder — shouted to the best of his ability over traffic noise — that 40 million have died and that it has to stop now. He then led us in two hymns, “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow” and “Amazing Grace.”

Being able to take part at all was a joy for me, despite the solemn meaning of the Life Chain. Until July, when I left the local newspaper, the Journal Star, participating in the event would have been a conflict of interest for me. I was a religion reporter there and covered abortion activism as part of my beat. Now, though, I can publicly express my opinions (although I’m sure they leaked through in my columns) and use my talents in the cause.

The best moment of the day, though, came afterward as my family and I headed to my mom’s for a visit (strangely appropriate now that I think about it). My 7-year-old son asked me what abortion was. I explained to the best of my ability and as tactfully as I could that it was when a woman decided not to have a baby and went to a place called an abortion clinic, where a doctor killed the baby inside of her and then removed it.

His response was, “Why would they do that?”


(The Peoria Journal Star’s coverage is here.)