During this most recent surge of illness, we were rocked by yet another attack on a Jewish institution during Shabbat. This time at Beth Israel Congregation in Colleyville, Texas. Another Sabbath that was hardly one of shalom: peace and wholeness. While personally dealing with very minor symptoms of COVID, my prayers were focused, like all of yours, toward a positive outcome. Now in the aftermath we are all left with many more difficult questions?
How does this affect us personally? Everyone is afraid, another horrific event in a safe, sacred place that by nature is a sanctuary. For me, it’s particularly terrifying. Naturally, I identify with a rabbi in that situation: It’s one of my biggest fears. Exactly this situation, and in many ways so horrifically similar. Like us, Beth Israel is a small, suburban community you think is well off the beaten track and pretty safe.
And what do we do now? Tough gun laws, more security. We will most definitely be having some meetings in our community discussing security measures. Not my favorite subject, and in turn, this will lead to more questions, and more spending on something I’d rather not even have to think about. We should be spending our money on programing and those in need in our community.
It is imperative to answer these, but I am left with other critical questions after this act of terror. Questions that have plagued me with every school shooting and act of violence that has rocked our world over these last years.
Because this terrorist, and make no mistake about it, that is what he was, was also a human being. And so, I wonder what type of mental health access did he have? Did he have a supportive network that cared for him? Were there warning signs or people who could see what was happening? It’s, of course, easier to ask these questions when he was the only fatality, but we have a mental health crisis that is accelerating in its manifestations, both in frequency and magnitude.
As a community, and a nation, we must make mental health a priority. That means coming together with bipartisan support for legislation, and accountability for HMO’s and insurance companies to cover treatment. Each one of us can do our part to destigmatize mental illness, so that we can respond effectively. If we honestly approached this issue with the knowledge and acceptance of how many people are living with mental health issues, how we continue to bury our heads in the sand.
There are those who will say, “not our problem he was a British citizen anyway.” To that let me say, as Americans let us take the lead in treating mental health, then the rest of the world can follow. We are the leaders in mass shootings now. Isn’t it time we became leaders in healing mental illness? If not now, when?
Rabbi Mark Blazer
Temple Beth Ami