In Featured at HBT, First, splansky

Dear Congregants,

The news of the day is shocking and difficult to integrate into our understanding of democracy, progress, and the place of a Jew in the world today. The images of torches and swastikas are right out of a page from one of the darkest chapters of history.  They are not a real threat, but they are a very real warning.

We stand in solidarity with our sister synagogue in Charlottesville.
To read the haunting account of Congregation Beth Israel’s President, click here.

The events of last weekend only reinforce the fact that injustice for some lead to injustices for all.

Elie Weisel famously taught, “We must always take sides.  Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.  Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the centre of the universe.”

If people cannot be free and secure in North America in 2017, then where?  We know how precious are the democracy and protection we enjoy at this time and place.  We also know now how fragile they can be.  Just societies are only as strong as the justice demanded by its citizens.

Vigilance is required of each of us now.

The crude hatred of the few must not be allowed to take root amidst the complicity of the many.  Our Sages taught that the Jewish People are duty-bound to be a voice of moral clarity in the world.  We are to plant ourselves as “a fence of rosebushes to protect the world from itself.”  Usually we offer words and deeds to inspire by way of their beauty and fragrance.  Sometimes, however, thorns must prick the conscience of humanity.  Let’s speak to our non-Jewish friends, colleagues, and neighbours.  Let’s break out of our echo chambers to strengthen the bonds among good people everywhere.  And if you have ideas for how our congregation can best respond to the challenges of this moment, please bring them forward.  Holy Blossom Temple has stood as a beacon of justice for 160 years.  How will we stand on the right side of history today?

As Shabbat approaches, I wish you the peace and clarity of conscience that can come on a holy day devoted to reflection and rest.  Let Shabbat restore our strength so we can then get to work, each doing our part to mend a broken world.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom from the Rhode Island shore,
Rabbi Yael Splansky

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  • Hoda


  • David Sandler

    I just read the description of the Charlottesville Congregation Beth El’s president, Alan Zimmerman, about the tragedy there and how it directly impacted on his synagogue, and on that entire Jewish community. Very frightening and it shows how actually vulnerable we all are to the threats from these neo-nazi groups. I hope it helps that Jewish community to know that other Reform, and other Jewish, communities, around the world, support them at this troubling time. It was gratifying to learn that non-Jewish residents of that community came to their synagogue on Saturday morning to show their support. We must learn from Elie Weisel’s thoughtful and wise comment, quoted by Rabbi Splansky in her moving posting on the HBT website on August 17.

  • Caroline Ingvaldsen

    Rabbi Zimmerman’s account is horrific and many of the messages posted in response are profoundly disturbing.
    As the daughter of holocaust survivors, I am convinced: if not us, then who, and if not now, when?

  • gerri

    Amen Yael from Hornby Island.

    We must and will act from a place of strength, together.

    Gerri Richman

  • Harriet Wolman

    I am deeply moved by Rabbi Splansky’s comments. I only wish that the United States had the calm and benevolent leadership that we have at Holy Blossom. What the President said is true: violence, no matter by whom, is horrible and not acceptable. But what he did not say was that what occurred last Friday evening was horrific and totally unacceptable in the United States or anywhere in the world. He could have condemned the anti-Semitism and Naziism of the White Supremicists clearly and directly, and then commented on the shame of all violence. He did not. We must all speak out in the face of this extreme situation and not be afraid to let our opinions be known. Mine are obvious….are yours?

  • Robert (Bob) Burton

    First, it is genuinely heartening that there seems to be such a swell of contempt for these terrible views. I believe we can be encouraged that there are so many good people who are speaking out, and isolating these fascists. To be sure, they are not the Alt-Right; they are fascists; instead of brown shirts, they wear hoods and carry torches.

    My parents were two of the 700 Jews that got into Canada in the run-up to and during the War. Luckily, they had “the nose” to smell when to get out. When I was grown my father told me that it was not until Rommel was routed at El-Alamein in January 1943, and the tide of the war changed, that he felt they had run far enough. God, let it be that he was right !

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