Rabbi awed by community support at vigil
Rabbi Tamar Malino of Temple Beth Shalom recently said her congregation was simply awed by the amount of support they have received in the wake of the Oct. 27 shooting that killed 11 and wounded six in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.
Temple Beth Shalom seats were filled and many stood along the sides as nearly 1,000 joined in the Oct. 30 Vigil in Memory of the Massacre at Tree of Life Synagogue. The following are excerpts from Rabbi Malino's words at the vigil:
The Tree of Life Synagogue, like Temple Beth Shalom:
• is a place where people come to greet God, and to greet each other for the Shabbat morning prayer;
• is a place where children run down the aisles, teenagers socialize with their friends, elderly are accompanied to their seats, and members lead Hebrew chanting and study sacred text;
• is a place where members celebrate important moments in their lives, and
• both house multiple congregations, who often worship at the same time.
The Tree of Life Synagogue, like Congregation Emanu-El which shares the Temple Beth Shalom building, hosted a National Refugee Shabbat to acknowledge and learn about the suffering of those fleeing persecution around the globe, and what we can do to help.
The Tree of Life Synagogue, like every synagogue in the country, is a place where Jews gather to be in the company of one another, to connect to the Divine, to be inspired and to feel safe.
When that synagogue was attacked, our safety was shattered.
We grieve with the victims and their families. We grieve for the violence that has been done to us as a people and the violence that has been done to others. We grieve, and we are frightened.
The Anti-Defamation League documented a 57 percent rise in anti-Semitic incidents in the United States in 2017, compared to 2016—bomb threats, assaults, vandalism, and anti-Semitic posters and literature.
Anti-Semitism is more visible in the U.S. than it has been in many decades, perhaps more than it has ever been. Whether it comes from ignorance or hatred, we cannot now, even if we want to, ignore its presence.
As Jews, our response to anti-Semitism, as it has been for centuries, is a refusal to be cowed. Instead we celebrate our heritage, strengthen our Jewish identities and live joyful, rich, meaningful Jewish lives.
We know this situation is not unique to us. As Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of the UK, put it, "Anti-semitism begins with Jews, but it never ends with them. A world without room for Jews is one that has no room for difference, and a world that lacks space for difference lacks space for humanity itself."
So we are frightened, not just for ourselves, but for everyone living in a world where this kind of anti-Semitism, along with so many other forms of racism, bigotry and hatred are rampant and have evoked violence.
It is particularly horrible when it occurs in houses of worship, where individuals are at their most vulnerable, most open and most trusting. Recently, there was a shooting of two African Americans in a grocery store in Kentucky, and before that, the perpetrator tried to enter a predominately black church, but fortunately couldn't get in.
In recent memory: 26 people were killed by a shooter in a Texas Church in 2017, and nine people in a historically black church in South Carolina in 2015.
We are not only frightened. We are outraged in the face of such evil.
As Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union of Reform Judaism, commented, it is outrageous that "we live in a time when we have to temper our loving welcome of strangers" in order to "protect our communities from violence and hate."
Tonight we invite you into our tent, the tent of our synagogue and the tent full of Spokane residents, the tent that seeks to be a safe, welcoming place for everyone of every race, religion and ethnicity.
We are frightened, we are outraged, but we are also grateful:
• that so many reached out to us in all kinds of ways, from heartfelt letters of support, to flowers, to donations;
• to law enforcement, who risked their lives and limbs in Pittsburgh, and those in Spokane, who continually work to keep us as safe as they can;
• to all who do so much work in the greater Spokane community to combat anti-Semitism, racism and bigotry in all its forms;
• to all of us who live honorably and intentionally in our daily lives, speaking respectfully with neighbors, and rooting out the anti-Semitism and racism that reside in our own souls however we can, and
• to each other for coming together to grieve, console one another and stand up for the values we all hold dear.
Orthodox Rabbi Yitz Greenberg reminds us that the Jewish tradition values every human being as created in the image of God with "three inherent dignities: infinite value, equality and individuality."
He added that the Jewish vision of Tikkun Olam imagines improving the world—until it fully sustains these dignities for everyone. He said that "we can turn inward or reach outward. We (Jews) are a nation of immigrants. We are stronger because of our diversity… The most challenging times are also the most critical times for building bridges and relationships, growing compassion and understanding."
As we share our voices, we remember the dead, articulate our communal values and gather the strength to be not just frightened, outraged and grateful, but also hopeful.
Hopeful that the future will bring healing and repair, that we can bring light into the darkness, that we can grow in compassion and understanding and that we can replace hate with love.
For information, call 747-3304.
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, December, 2018