In Our Virtual Mishkan, Reflections: Rabbi Zachary Goodman

Two Years After Pittsburgh

Yesterday, Jews around the world marked the second yahrzeit of the victims of Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh. I will forever have the images of this hateful act seared in my memory; the tears that my wife and I shed in mourning and fear. For all communities of faith, this attack represented a shift in our sense of security in our houses of worship.

In a recent article published in the Jerusalem Times my fellow rabbinical school classmate, Rabbi Natalie Shribman, described the community she grew up in, saying, “Pittsburgh kind of helped me become a Jewish person because it was so easy to find Judaism,” she said. “It was just so welcoming to be there.” This welcoming spirit and accepting of others was part of the reason why Tree of Life was chosen as a target. Their work with refugees with the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) made them visible to an invisible threat. After this attack, instances of anti-Semitic hate crimes hit a record high in the United States. We have also felt this rise in these behaviors in our own community.

In the midst of loss and pain, we are able to find connection. Last year, Holy Blossom planted a tree in honour of Joyce Fineberg, one of the victims of this hatred who grew up in our community. It is just a small illustration of how our tribe, the Jewish people, remains connected across countries and continents. That while we look, pray, and gather in different ways, we remain one people.

There are no quick solutions to the heavy fear that permeates our North American Jewish community. In times of turmoil, we often turn to the wisdom of Torah. This week, our tradition demands of us to “Lech Lecha ” to Go Forth. This call to leave, to go, is our own call to be active. To quote a familiar name, Rabbi Michael Satz writes, “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.”

We will not let the memories of those killed at Tree of Life to senseless violence be forgotten.  Whether this means attending a service, baking challah for the first time in months, or reaching out to an old friend – make time this week to perform a ‘radical’ act of love that will strengthen our Jewish community in response to those who continue to try to break it apart. We honour the victims of this terror by continuing their work. The Canadian counterpart to HIAS is the Jewish Immigrant Aid Society (JIAS)

For more information about this incredibly organization, please click here.

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