Kol ha’olam kulo gesher tzar me’od vehaikar lo lefached klal.
“The whole world is a narrow bridge, the most important thing is not to be afraid.”
The shooting at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on this past Shabbat that left eleven people dead and many more injured has been a traumatic event for the Jewish community and for our country. We mourn the loss of innocent lives, struggle with the situation and atmosphere that has lead to this tragedy, and cry out for so many reasons including the call for justice. It is very disturbing that our nation is in this place. Sadly, this is the third shooting in a place of worship over the past three years, and when we look back five years, the number is even bigger. This antisemitic act is horrific and shocking, and yet the Jewish community is not alone in being targets for violence and hatred. Around our country, many groups have gathered in solidarity and support. As this situation continues to develop and funerals are held for the deceased, there may be more times for community gatherings and support. This has been an intensely emotional time for me personally and every rabbi I know and for people of faith in every city and town.
The congregation Tree of LIfe itself was an example of what Jewish life can achieve, housing multiple “synagogues” in one building, including the Reconstructionist affiliate congregation called Dor Hadash. This was an open community and a place of welcome to people, regardless of faith, wealth, or color of their skin. We pray for the healing of everyone who was injured, all those who are suffering from this trauma, and for the souls of those whose lives were extinguished. The first responders, police, rescue workers, doctors, nurses, and support staff only know that citizens are in need of help. We are grateful for their continued service.
This is a moment when we can and should come together as a nation and to stand up to the face of hatred and say not now and not here. One of the most heartening effects of this horrific rampage is that it has brought together Jewish, Christian, Moslem, Sikh, Hindu, Atheist, and people of all faiths and walks of life to rally together. This gives me hope and faith that love will conquer hate. If out of this awful circumstance develops a stronger connection between groups of faith who otherwise would not have been in unity. In this way we can celebrate our differences while honoring the sacredness of every life and person.
This may be an extremely traumatizing event for some people. It should be shocking to us all. It is important at times like these that we have support of our own whether it is through professional counseling or friendly support. Perhaps you can check in with those in your life who are vulnerable at times like these. There are many resources that have been developed and can be found on the internet including on Reconstructing Judaism, the Reform movement, and the Jewish Federations of North America in addition to many more. The outpouring of support from leaders of every faith that has a home in the United States over the past few days has been a buoyant and has given me chills. I am heartened to know that we have one another’s back and that an affront to any community of faith is an attack on every community of faith.
I mourn and ache together with you at this time. May the lives of those lost be bound up in the bond of eternal life and may they rest in peace. May the survivors find healing and peace from their physical and emotional suffering. May we find the ways to connect to each other and to our community deeper than we have in the past. I believe that Judaism impels us to affirm the positive aspects of life and living. The only way I know to create a better world is to start today. I hope you will join me. We will be gathering together Friday night in Havurah. Please feel encouraged and welcomed to bring along a friend or two who may need some community and spiritual healing. Later in the evening, following the service and meal, there will be some time and space for song and reflection.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Martin Luther King, Jr.