It has now been about a week since the terrible events unfolded at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. The traditional period of Jewish mourning – Shiva – will soon come to an end. Yet the shock and pain of these past seven days will remain with us for many weeks and months yet to come.
The time has now come for us to turn to the task of trying to understand and make some sense of the tragic event we have experienced, both as Jews and as citizens of America.
We have been told that with the loss of 11 innocent lives – and the wounding of six others, including the police officers who responded to this horrific incident – we have witnessed the most deadly attack on the Jewish community here in the United States. The belief that such an event could not take place in our own country – much like the events of Sept. 11, 2001 – has now been proven wrong. Truly, anywhere has now become here.
In the peaceful community of Squirrel Hill — literally the neighborhood in which Fred Rogers (of Mr. Rogers fame) grew up — we have seen how even a quiet close-knit community can become the scene of hatred and violence. None of us can ever feel completely safe again.
Yet, it would be wrong to dwell only on the horror and tragedy of this terrible event. In this past week, I, and all of you, have witnessed the constant and ongoing acts of kindness and generosity displayed by tens and hundreds of thousands of our countrymen – both Jewish and non-Jewish. For every deranged bigot and hater there are legions of good people who are ready to stand together to ease the pain, to console the grieving, and to bring some meaning to these awful events. I refuse to dwell on the actions of one hate-filled man. Instead I take joy in the open hearts and open hands of so many throughout our land in demonstrating solidarity with the community of Squirrel Hill.
This weekend, I invite all of you, both Jews and non-Jews, to attend services at one of our synagogues here in the Santa Clarita Valley. Let us come together to show we will not be intimidated, we will not allow hatred and bigotry to divide us, we will only become stronger in the face of animosity and hatred. Let us continue to remember the victims of this tragedy. Let us give our time, resources and efforts to support groups and causes that work to heal the rift that divides us. Finally, let us show the haters and bigots of this world we will not be cowed and will not cease our efforts to work together to build a better world.
Shabbat Shalom – may you all enjoy a peaceful and healing Sabbath.
Rabbi Ronald Hauss, Congregation Beth Shalom