We are heartbroken, and angered, to write you again concerning the shooting at another synagogue, this time at the Chabad in Poway California, exactly six months after the Tree of Life shooting in Pittsburgh. Truly, it is a unique form of evil to shoot people while they are praying. We are sickened to see yet another house of worship attacked and we mourn the loss of Lori Gilbert-Kaye, a pillar of the Chabad Poway community. The shooter in Poway has also claimed responsibility for an arson attack on a nearby mosque last month. Americans, Jewish and all others, deserve to be safe.
The attack occurred on the final day of Passover, our festival of freedom. There is a curious passage in our haggadah called “V’hi sheh-amda” which declares that “in every generation our enemies have tried to destroy us, but God has saved us from their hands.” If we are really free, why are we singing about unending violence against us? After this attack, it is a sobering acknowledgement that though we are no longer slaves, we are never fully free from so many other evils. We must continually rely on God’s saving power and our own strength to keep going. Singing this line becomes an act of resistance: in spite of ever-present evil, we are still here. They will not destroy our spirit. We refuse to accept such violence as normal.
But the sobering new reality is that Jewish communities in the United States now must reckon with the possibility, however remote, of terrorist attacks directed at us.
At Kol Emet, enhancing our security measures is a vital part of our response. Since Oct 27th we have been continually making improvements, and additional security cameras are being installed this week.
But security cannot be our only answer to the rising expressions of anti-Semitism, hatred, and bigotry we are seeing today. Minorities of all faiths, colors, and backgrounds are vulnerable. We must continue to stand for what is right and good, comfort those in pain, build strong relationships with our neighbors, and show up for one another. This Passover, the bitterness of hatred still lingers in our mouths, but we stand together, clear in our resolve to bring more light into this world.
On Shabbat morning at Kol Emet, we celebrated a beautiful festival service and surrounded ourselves with the memories of our loved ones as we honored them with our Yizkor (memorial) prayers. On Sunday morning, our Kadima/Mechina classes met downstairs, while upstairs adults gathered to learn with Fran Fried about the Holocaust and its lessons for today. Our mourning, celebrating, learning, and growing is continually intertwined. In this very real sense, Am Yisrael Chai – the people of Israel live.
In a moving video clip, Rabbi Yisrael Goldstein, who was injured in the shooting, suggested that one thing that we can all do is to show up for Shabbat next week. We have a Heymish Shabbat scheduled for Friday night, and I hope you will choose to join us to share a Shabbat dinner together and hear Jonathan Snipes talk about food insecurity and sustainability.
These acts of terror will not stop us. May our resolve only increase as we stand with our community and bring more love into our fractured world.