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Rabbinic Reflection: Rabbi Michael Satz

As Pesach, our Festival of Freedom was ending we hear the news of another synagogue being attacked by a white supremacist six months after eleven Jews were murdered in Pittsburgh. This time in Poway, CA in San Diego County. I did serve as a rabbi in San Diego, but I did not know Lori Gilbert Kaye, the one person killed. I do know people who know her, and they say that she was a true woman of valour.

What can we do in memory of people like Lori or Joyce Fienberg, a woman who grew up at Holy Blossom and was killed at her synagogue in Pittsburgh? Live Jewishly. Unabashedly Jewish.

One way of living Jewishly is to hunker down and spurn the rest of the world. To be a Jew is to set oneself apart. It seems like the world doesn’t want us. Tonight is Yom HaShoah, and it wasn’t that long ago that the ultimate crime against us was perpetrated.

But, this is not the answer. Even though it is often hard to see, but the world is a beautiful place. We are blessed to live as free individuals in an open society. It is in this open society that we can fully flourish as Jews. The white supremacists of Pittsburgh and Poway hated us because we are open to the world and we know that an open world lets everyone flourish. They hate us because we support pluralism because we support the weak because we support people coming to Canada and America to make their lives better. We support the “stranger” because “we were strangers in the land of Egypt.” This, too, is a lesson of Pesach, not just “in every generation, they rise up to destroy us . . .”

We are concerned about our personal and communal security as Jews, and we should take this seriously, and we can double down on our commitment to the world. Communal solidarity and continuity are crucial, and so is being leaders in Canadian society. Holy Blossom has a history of being engaged in changing Canadian society for the better—making our country more welcoming, more caring, more diverse. Tonight we honour the memory of Max Enkin who worked tirelessly to bring Jewish refugees to Canada. Our members have also helped with Vietnamese refugees, Soviet Jewish refugees, and recently Syrian refugees.

We can continue this tradition. Jews in Toronto are working with refugee resettlement agencies like JIAS (Jewish Immigrant Aid Society) to help bring Eritrean refugees Israel to Canada. Two single mothers, Ruta and Eden, through much hardship leaving their country have found themselves in Israel so that their children can thrive. Now we have the opportunity to help them thrive in Canada. If you would like to lend your support to show that we are not going to back down from anti-Semites, please contact me.

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