Words I shared with my congregation this afternoon in the wake of the attack at a synagogue in Pittsburgh:
By now, many of you have heard the horrible news of the shooting this morning at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. As of this writing there are 11 confirmed dead and numerous more injured. Our prayers for healing go out to those who are suffering, and our prayers of comfort go out to all who mourn.
At the same time, I recognize that all of us are suffering and all of us are mourning.
Earlier today at TBH we gathered for our regular Talmud Study that we hold on the fourth Saturday of every month. But it was not completely regular—we kept the doors locked at all times and only let in people for the study, and I called the Olympia Police Department prior to ask them to keep an eye on us, even though we did not get any direct threats. They were very supportive and stopped by to check in. As we move forward, we will continue to examine how we can maintain safety while honoring our commitment to welcoming.
During the morning, several people stopped by to offer support. One couple dropped off a bouquet of flowers. I also got many messages via text, on Facebook, and the like. All of them meaningful and uplifting as we struggle to understand an event thousands of miles away yet so close to our hearts. To know that, during a time of fear, there are those who love and support you, is so important.
Reports indicate that shooter has been taken into custody and identified, and it was clear that this was an attack motivated by hate. The shooter apparently made anti-Semitic remarks during the attack and on numerous social media posts in the past.
We can not ignore the fact that hatred and anti-Semitism is taking an ever more central role in our society. The vitriol and condoning of political violence, the dog-whistling of anti-Semitism though the use of the term “globalist” or references to George Soros, the “othering” of other vulnerable groups, the privileging of some in the name of “religious liberty”—all of these are culminating in a culture that, as we saw today, is resulting in violent attacks against targeted communities. A participant in our Talmud study this morning called the attacks a “pogrom,” a term that resonates.
The question that comes up is, what can we do?
For one, we can be together. I invite the community to gather in the sanctuary at TBH tomorrow, Sunday, October 28 at 1:00 p.m. We can be together as a community to share our hopes and fears, and support one another.
We can build bridges. Today I received numerous messages from other faith communities and local organizations. The relationships we have built in the area are invaluable, and we will continue to develop these connections with other congregations and the greater community.
We can continue to fight for the vulnerable. Jewish communities, and TBH in specific, has made the commitment to tikkun olam, to repair of the world. We recognize that our history as victims of oppression connects us in common cause with all victims of oppression, and compels us to see what is broken and seek to fix it.
We can honor our traditions. Judaism has survived for so long through a commitment to living an authentic, rooted, creative Jewish life. This evening I will have the honor of standing under the huppah with two young people who represent the next generation of the Jewish people. As they celebrate their love, we celebrate them, and continuity, and a hopeful future.
And we can speak out. We can call out bigotry. We can protest. We can lobby. We can vote. We can, despite our fear, be who we are and stand up to those who would seek to destroy us.
Today, in Pittsburgh and the world over, the shalom of Shabbat was shattered. May we continue to hope for, pray for, and work for a time of shalom for us and all peoples.
Rabbi Seth Goldstein