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October 27, 2018 - Where Were You?

05/29/2023 09:00:57 PM


Where were you on Shabbat morning, October 27, 2018. Once I remind you of the significance of that date, I am sure you will remember where you were as clearly as you remember where you were on the morning of 9/11/2001. October 27, 2018 - 18 Cheshvan 5779 - Parshat Vayera. On that date I officiated at a private bat mitzvah. When I emerged from the hall, I turned on my phone and saw my first alerts about the attack on Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. A conservative congregation. After some quick googling I confirmed my fears that I knew two of the clergy people in that building. One of them Rabbi Cantor Jeff Myers was a school mate at JTS and the other, Rabbi Cheryl Klein, the Rabbi of Dor Hadash whose congregation also met in the same building.   As it turned out, Rabbi Cheryl Klein had taken the shabbat off from her congregation, but one of the victims was her congregant.  Rabbi Cantor Jeff Myers was front and center - luckily managed to escape the bullets and emerged as a strong leader and spokesperson. 

Many of you know that in 2007, after serving pulpits since about 1985,  I left the formal pulpit to pursue my own path  and only returned fulltime when I came to Adath Shalom almost one year ago. The synagogue world I returned to in 2022 was dramatically different from the one I left in 2007. Among the most notable differences is that now as a response to the Tree of Life Synagogue attack, there are armed guards in the lobbies of most of our synagogues, a new budget line for "security" needs, security committees, emergency plans and drills. An Adath Shalom congregant recently shared with me that their family visited a church and the children noted with surprise that there was no armed security guard in the entrance lobby. 

Rabbi Cantor Jeff Myers has been checking in periodically with his cantorial colleagues and sharing his thoughts and  experiences. I might have been otherwise unaware that the federal trial of the murderer of 11 Jewish souls has begun. Rabbi Cantor Jeff Myers will be the first federal witness today (Tuesday, May 30). In an email to his cantorial colleagues he says "I ask nothing for myself, but ask that you pray for shleimut (wholeness, peace) for Pittsburgh". 

A few weeks ago Heather Schweizer, the director of the religious school of Temple Beth Am gave me a lapel button. A small blue square with a # in the corner. She explained it is being distributed as a symbol of the "Stand Up To Hate Campaign". The Stand Up to Jewish Hate is a national campaign designed to raise awareness about antisemitism and hatred against Jews and to encourage all people to post and share the Blue Square to stand up against intolerance. You can read about the trial and the individual who murdered 11 Jews and trace how his antisemitism grew and inspired him to perpetrate this horrific crime. When I was growing up - I viewed antisemitism as a menace and as an uncomfortable reminder of my differences from other Americans.  Today, I view antisemitism as a threat to my life. 

Tree of Life Shooting Trial

You can also read about the blue pin and the campaign and how to spread the word against antisemitism here: 

Stand Up to Jewish Hate Campaign

Rabbi Cantor Jeff Myers asked that we pray for shleimut, so I will end with the words of the prayer for peace we recite every shabbat: "May we live to see the day when all war and bloodshed cease, when a great peace will embrace the whole world. Let love and justice flow like a mighty stream. Let peace fill the earth as the waters fill the sea. And let us say: Amen." 

Mon, July 15 2024 9 Tammuz 5784