We join ranks with Jews and Gentiles alike throughout the country and the world who are all sharing their pain and horror at the senseless and horrific massacre of 11 of our beloved brethren during a service at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. As we know, this also includes six injured, including four dedicated police officers hurt in the line of duty protecting Jewish lives, and our prayers are with all of them and their families, as well as the families of those murdered.
As Jews with a shared history of thousands of years of anti-Semitism, we cannot be foolish enough to brush this under the carpet as just another hate crime. What has been happening for some time in Europe, and in Israel since its inception, has come to our shores. Many of our universities, which are our country’s future, have become well-known as hotbeds for anti-Israel and anti-Jewish rhetoric that is now bearing bitter fruit in the statements of some young politicians and leaders.
We can’t help but wonder, as do the Jews of Europe: What does this mean for the future of a Jewish presence in America?
What are we, the non-political and simple Jews, to do in the moment?
We are, sadly, living in a time of division and hatred; a nation divided on multiple levels, politically, racially and more.
Our response, as Jews, is to perform acts of kindness. To say an extra, heartfelt, kind word to a spouse, child or parent. To greet another with a heartfelt, warm smile. To reach out to a friend in need of strength. To find ways to bring sunshine into another’s life who is feeling dark and going through a difficult time. Sadly, with so many sicknesses, divorces, unhappy marriages, losses of income and more, those in need of a warm hand and a soft word are not hard to find.
We, as a Light Unto the Nations, need to lead the way with love, caring and understanding. We cannot underestimate the ripple effect and the power, both tangibly and spiritually, that this could cause.
We, especially, need to be extra careful not to speak badly or negatively about, or to, a fellow Jew. This is a prohibition in the Torah known as lashon hara. Numerous books have been written on this subject, and perhaps this would be a good time to become well-versed in these amazing laws — laws that only the Holy Nation has on its lawbooks, unlike any other nation in the world.
This should extend to the way we speak about and treat our Gentile neighbors and friends, as well. Every interaction between us and our Gentile neighbors should create a Kiddush Hashem, or sanctification of the Name of God.
Even a little light can dispel a lot of darkness. It’s not enough to say we are upset and unite in our horror; we, as Jews, need to take the lead in something positive. In this case it is to extend ourselves on behalf of another. May God see that effort as a way to bridge the divides and bring mercy upon us and all in this great country.
Sincerely, and with much pain and prayer on behalf of the victims,
Rabbi Yerachmiel Fried