From the Rabbi’s Trail (The Negev)
In late October last year, Sam and I were both on parental leave and we decided to take our newborn infant for a little outing on one Shabbat morning. I was holding Rafael in one of those frontal carriers, his little head barely peeking out through the side. As we were walking not far from our house, Sam suddenly got an alert that there was a synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh. Frozen in shock and anger, we headed home and waited for details to emerge. I remember feeling Rafael’s tiny body against my chest, and it gave me great comfort in the face of great angst. I held him extra tight…let his innocence wash over me.
The shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue, one year ago this Sunday, shook the global Jewish community to its core. Eleven deaths, eleven worlds cut down, and countless others scarred for eternity. This cowardly act of domestic terrorism reminded us that, even in history’s most successful Jewish diaspora, anti-Semitism seethed beneath the surface ready to explode. Indeed, just a few days ago released, a survey of American Jews showed that nine out of ten say anti-Semitism is a big problem, and 31% avoid publicly wearing or carrying noticeably Jewish objects. Most alarming, 35% say they have been targets of anti-Semitism in the past five years.
And yet, we have ample evidence of the opposite as well. Indeed, days after the shooting, many hundreds of our non Jewish neighbors packed into our Beth Shalom Synagogue to express their life-affirming support and love. Together, we declared in one voice that hatred will never win.
In this spirit, the American Jewish Committee is once again calling on everyone to #showupforshabbat this evening and tomorrow. Whether or not it is your weekly practice, I ask that you consider showing up to express our collective pride and support. Though I will not be with you in person, I assure you that I am there in spirit.
This entire year, we have included the names and the ages of Pittsburgh’s fallen on our Kaddish list. Come to pay homage to their legacy on this, the last Shabbat of their mourning period. Come to honor the Tree of Life Synagogue, as we read about its biblical namesake in the first chapters of the Torah which we begin again this week. In it, we learn about the Tree’s planting deep inside the Garden to protect and sanctify life at any cost.
I leave you with this acrostic prayer from liturgist Alden Solovy expressing the all-encompassing grief and re-dedication to our hard-earned Jewish values. Though written one year ago to mark this terrible event, may its words still ascend to God on High.