We are deeply moved by the outpouring of support for our synagogue from our community and people across the country and around the world in the wake of the horrific anti-Semitic attack of October 27, 2018. We will continue to mourn our lost congregants, even as we honor their memories by healing, growing, and strengthening the congregation they loved. We deeply appreciate the many offers of assistance and support of the victims' families and to help rebuild the Tree of Life synagogue. Your support proves that love is truly stronger than hate.
The Tree of Life fund for Victims and Families is closed. You may still help our community heal by donating to the impacted synagogues or other community agencies.
On August 28, 2017, interfaith religious leaders from across our region gathered at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh to stand together for our common values of compassion and inclusion, rejecting hatred in all its forms. I was privileged to attend this important event as your Rabbi, to engage in dialogue with other religious leaders, and to add my name to the following declaration:
A Declaration of Religious Leaders of Southwest Pennsylvania
Standing in the midst of Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood, we seek to be good neighbors, to love our neighbors, and to work for justice alongside our neighbors. Gathering today on the anniversary of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, we too sense the “fierce urgency of now.” As our nation’s divisions become ever more visible, we reaffirm our calling to the tasks of religious leadership:
As religious leaders, we are called to interpret the scriptures.
In the Torah, we hear the commands
“love your neighbor as yourself” and “do not stand idle while your neighbor bleeds.”
In the New Testament, we read,
“Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”
In the Holy Qur’an, we hear,
“Those who believe and do good deeds — the Gracious God will create love in their hearts.”
Our sacred texts all agree: every human being is created and beloved by God. Every human being has worth and deserves dignity. From every minbar, bimah, and pulpit, we will continue to preach this message of love and compassion.
As religious leaders, we are called to speak moral truth.
This moment demands that we speak with clarity and courage. Together, we declare that white supremacy is evil. Anti-Semitism is evil. Islamophobia is evil. Racism is evil. We reject bigotry and intolerance of all kinds; we condemn all forms of hatred.
We call ourselves, our congregations, and our institutions to repent from our own historic and ongoing complicity in structures that oppress. With God’s help, we recommit ourselves to the building of the beloved community: a world where all God’s children know peace, hope, and joy.
As religious leaders, we are called to care for the vulnerable.
As tensions rise, we turn with compassion toward those in our midst who have the greatest cause for fear. We stand in solidarity with all marginalized and minority communities, especially those who have been targets of hate. We will work to strengthen the ties of friendship among us so that we can be even more effective advocates for one another in times of need.
As religious leaders, we are called to seek justice for the oppressed.
Our voices must not ring out in sanctuaries alone, but on the streets and in halls of power. We will work to make our values more visible in public life. Empowered by our faith, we will seek a just world for all. We rely on one another for mutual support and admonition. Together, we rely on God’s help that we might prove worthy of this high calling.
To that end, we can to combat hate locally, regionally, nationally and globally. To paraphrase the late Elie Wiesel:
the opposite of hate is not love, it is indifference.
The challenge to you is: will you stand against hate, or will you be indifferent? Some may say that it is overwhelming; some may say that they just don’t know where to start. The opportunity to help our fellow Americans is upon us. We have all witnessed the devastation that continues in the Southeast parts of Texas - flooding of biblical proportions, with the concurrent words escaping even the most seasoned meteorologists. During our prayers in daily minyan, I have introduced the reading of Psalm 93. It reads as follows:
Adonai is sovereign, crowned with splendor; Adonai reigns, robed in strength.
You set the earth on a sure foundation. You created a world that stands firm.
Your kingdom stands from earliest time. You are eternal.
The rivers may rise and rage, the waters may pound and pulsate, the floods may swirl and storm.
Yet above the crash of the sea and its mighty breakers is Adonai our God, supreme.
Your decrees, Adonai, never fail. Holiness befits Your house for eternity.
Above all, God is there to offer comfort, support and hope in this trying time. We must be there as well, whether it is with our time (a former congregant of mine volunteers for the American Red Cross and has arrived in Austin to lend assistance) or our funds. Many opportunities to assist are available, with many more appearing. Here are two to get you started:
www.nechama.org Nechama (means “comfort”) is a national Jewish organization with volunteers who respond to national disasters around our country. You can read more about them at their web site, send a donation to them, or even learn how to become a Nechama volunteer.
American Red Cross By clicking on this link, you can donate directly to the American Red Cross and their efforts in Texas. I can speak firsthand of the wonderful professionals and volunteers, having had to evacuate from my home during Hurricane Irene to a friend’s home, and then having to evacuate from that home to a Red Cross Shelter.
This is just a beginning. However, each of us needs to start.