(November 27, 2018 / JNS) Thirty days after the deadliest attack in American Jewish history, the Rabbinical Assembly—the worldwide association of Conservative rabbis—distributed to its members pieces of writing by two of its leaders who survived the tragedy: Tree of Life Synagogue Rabbi Jeffrey Myers and New Light Congregation Rabbi Jonathan Perlman.
“The horrific shooting of American Jews being shot while at prayer on Shabbat morning shocked the world,” RA CEO Julie Schoenfeld told JNS. “While many might be inclined to treat violent or hateful speech as less consequential than physical violence, Judaism has always recognized the imminent danger that hate-filled language poses to innocent people and to the community as a whole.”
“The 11 innocent victims of the Tree of Life shooting and the countless people who were traumatized by it remind us of the rectitude of Jewish tradition’s admonitions against hateful speech,” she continued. “In the aftermath of this heinous act, however, countless people of good will from every faith, culture, background and nationality came forward to care and to help.”
“Especially here in the United States, Jewish communities were supported and strengthened by the caring of our neighbors, and also by the kindness of strangers,” added Schoenfeld. “We also saw clear demonstration of the strength, openness and caring of American society, and were reminded once again of our duty to strengthen it.”
In prepared thoughts, Myers wrote: “Shloshim marks the end of a 30-day period of mourning. Our self-imposed restrictions are eased. But what of the emotional restrictions: the nightmares, fear, insomnia and trauma?”
“Who ends those? Where do we turn when our faith is shaken to its core,” continued Myers. “In times of tribulation, we have always turned to the Psalms: ‘I turn my eyes to the heavens; from where shall my help come? My help comes from God, Maker of heaven and earth.’ ”
Myers expressed his gratitude for the support his congregation received in the aftermath of the shooting.
“The outpouring of compassion and love—not just from fellow Jews, but people of all faiths throughout the world—has been a soothing balm,” he said. “It has reassured not just our synagogue, but the entire Jewish community, that we are not alone at this time, that all good people stand with us. This renews our faith in all humanity.”
Perlman wrote a poem and mentioned this week’s Torah portion. An excerpt:
When Jacob died, all of Egypt wept thirty days. When Joseph died all of Egypt wept thirty days. When Miriam died all of Israel wept thirty days When Aaron died all of Israel wept thirty days. When Moses died, Israel wept thirty days.
And then Israel reached the Promised Land. We could not do it without you.
You Eleven too made us what we are today.
And your absence wears heavy on our souls.
We miss your smiles, your humor, your leadership
We miss your energy, your love, your loyalty.
May we merit what we lost in you at the end of thirty days. We are told that thirty days ends the weeping.
We are told now we can move on.