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In our sorrow and lamentation, it is our connection to each other and to our friends that help keep us going. Our people are in mourning, we are still in the seven days, with our Temple president and the rest of Joyce Fienberg’s family, and as a Jewish people. Our darkness is penetrated by rays of light.

We received many notes of consolation.

Our friends at the Noor Cultural Centre wanted to make sure we knew that they “remembered and prayed for the victims – the ones that suffered directly in yesterday’s targeted attack.”

Imam Hamid Slimi made it clear that that Saturday was “a sad day and our hearts are with the families of the victims and all the Jewish community.”

And our neighbours to the north at the Imdaldul Islamic Centre are planning to encircle us with the bodies in protection during our prayers this Shabbat.

And these are just our friends here in Toronto.  

In the past week, we have had three Reform rabbis from around the world visit us at Holy Blossom Temple, and I know more are on the way. Last weekend, as I was installed as an Associate Rabbi here at Holy Blossom, we were honoured by the visit of Dr Rabbi Deborah Kahn-Harris, the Principal of the Leo Baeck College, our movement’s seminary in London, England. Dr Rabbi Kahn-Harris taught us about our people’s ancient lamentations, and of how these tragedies help us identify with the tragedies both ancient and modern. She spoke about what it takes to train rabbis for Europe and invited our congregation to learn in their online adult education program, their Lehrhaus.

Rabbi Nir Barkin was with us Sunday, visiting from Congregation Yotzma in Modiin and offered his own words on Sunday Morning along with Rabbi Satz, and Rabbi Guershon Kwasniewski from SIBRA in Porto Alegre Brazil came to visit us and shared his experiences on security with our Senior Staff.

The visits give us hope and courage, they bring us connections and remind us that we are a part of a larger, caring Jewish world.

This is a poem, written by one of our former URJ Camp George educators, who is currently a fourth-year student at HUC-JIR in Cincinnati, and grew up near the Tree of Life synagogue – a prayer which is hard to read, and in its reading unites us.  Please join us this Shabbat, and be united with us in person and in prayer.

Flames flicker, burn down and gutter
a baby is celebrated and named.
Words of praise, joy, and blessing
stick to the walls of the synagogue.
Their voices were lifted up
as their lives changed forever.

Flames flicker, burn down and gutter
Our lives were changed too
as the all too quick bullets
punctured hearts and tears fell.
Fear, shock, sadness
covered the sanctuary and chapel.

Flames flicker, burn down and gutter
One lost and eleven times over
congregants, police officials,
lawyers, doctors,
our brothers, our sisters.

Flames flicker, burn down and gutter
Tears shed and several wounded
cries filled the air
people turned to one another
searching for peace, shelter, relief and healing
and yet we are at a loss for those lives,
for our community,
for words.

Flames flicker, burn down and gutter
Squirrel Hill, Oakland, Wilkinsburg
Ross Township, Edgewood, Squirrel Hill
Tree of Life Synagogue.
The pillars of Pittsburgh.

May their lights never be extinguished
May they shine on us always
and illuminate our way
as we begin to find light amid
the darkness of our tragedy.

—Student Rabbi Natalie Louise Shribman

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