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In Response to the Attack on the Synagogue in Poway, California

We emerge from our celebration of Pesach, Festival of Freedom, with mixed emotions of grief, anger, and fear. The shooting at the Chabad synagogue in Poway, California came six months to the day after the attack on The Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Our Kaddish list already includes the names of Daniel and Amelie Linsey z”l, Jewish teen brother and sister from London who were on a family vacation in Sri Lanka when their hotel was attacked by Islamists. Now we must also include the name of Lori Gilbert Kaye z”l, who was killed yesterday by a white supremacist who invaded her Chabad synagogue. We mourn for the loss of life and we pray for the wounded, including the Dahan family who moved from S’derot on the Gaza border to find peace in America.

We recommit ourselves to being vigilant. Authorities have reassured the Toronto Jewish community that we should continue with our established security protocols and that they are on constant watch.

What else can we do?

  1. Create a Ring of PeaceJoin me today at 3:45 pm at the local Sri Lankan Church where we will gather around them in their hour of grief. We will draw strength from one another and from our partners in faith as we stand together to demonstrate that all Houses of God must be places of sanctuary and peace.
  2. Take Inspiration from the Tailor Project – Wednesday evening we will honour the courageous and compassionate leadership of Temple President Max Enkin z”l who went to war-torn Europe to bring more than 2000 tailors to take refuge in Canada. Government officials will join us. Make your presence known and hold our government to its promise to fight against the most recent wave of anti-Semitism wherever it may fester.
  3. Bear Witness on Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day – Thursday evening witness our congregant John Freund who will tell his story of survival. Bring children, grandchildren as they will be the last generation to hear first-hand accounts of the Shoah. Bring non-Jewish friends and neighbours so they can also bear witness to this hard truth and become important allies against today’s anti-Semitism.
  4. Study It – Many ask: Why is this happening? Some reasons are a mystery, but some are well known. Professor Howard Adelman will illuminate the writings of 20th-century thinkers who shaped modern Philo-Semitism and Anti-Semitism.
  5. Understand Its Impact – How does Anti-Semitism past and present, real and imagined, play a part in shaping today’s Canadian Jewish identity? A team of social scientists have released a new survey. They are coming to teach us on May 21st what role leading synagogues like ours have to play in raising up the next generation to be strong in identity and commitment.
  6. Take Care – The news of the day can take a toll on our emotional wellbeing. Our Luke Sklar Initiative for Mental Health Initiative offers one workshop on Resilience and another on Mindful Meditation.
  7. Build Bridges – Holy Blossom is participating in Toronto Doors Open on May 25 and 26. Volunteer as a greeter or be trained as a docent to welcome Torontonians from all walks of life to come and learn who we are and what we stand for. On May 27th, we will host a Ramadan dinner to break bread with our Muslim neighbours and reinforce our shared humanity and shared monotheism.
  8. From Hate to Hope – Joyce Fienberg z”l grew up at Holy Blossom, became an active member of Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, and was among the eleven slain six months ago. On June 17 Joyce’s daughter-in-law, Marnie Fienberg, will speak about “Two for Seder,” her grassroots, international initiative to combat anti-Semitism. With Joyce’s extended family we will plant a tree in her memory.
  9. Advocate – Visit the website of CIJA, The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs or sign up for its newsletter to learn how to raise your voice and advocate for matters that are important to you and Canadian Jewry.
  10. Pray – Come to our sanctuaries for Shabbat and weekday services. Draw strength from one another. Draw life-wisdom from words of Torah and tap into the faith of our ancestors who composed the words and melodies of our prayerbook. External threats are less frightening when internal faith is strong.

Where will you place yourself tomorrow and the next day and the next in response to the frightful news of the day? Plan your next steps just as you plan for everything that is important to you – with smarts, time and resources allocated, with intention and with good partners like your fellow congregants here at Holy Blossom Temple.


Rabbi Yael Splansky

I share the words of Rabbi Ari Hart for inspiration and motivation.

Attention White Supremacists.

 Your fears are correct:
We will replace you.
We will absolutely, without a doubt, replace you.

We will replace every act of hate you commit with ten thousand acts of love.

We will flood every dark corner of bigotry and lies where you lurk
with truth and reason that burn like the light of ten thousand suns.

We will drown your hatred with love.
A mixed, rainbow multitude of good, kind, decent people,
Black and White, Jewish and Christian, Muslim and Hindu, Buddhist and Atheist, Gay and Straight, Left and Right, will stand up to you,
again and again, and again and again,
and we shall overcome you.
All of Us

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  • Ruth Ellen Greenwood

    Thank you, Yael, for your wisdom and your good advice. Together we will stay strong and we shall overcome.

  • Logan Ross

    This is a beautiful letter. Thank you also for all of the information about upcoming important dates.

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