Today, family members, friends, and admirers of Lori Gilbert Kaye z”l, age 60, will eulogize her at her funeral at Chabad of Poway Synagogue near San Diego, CA. They will speak of how she was always doing chesed, an act of kindness or giving tzedakah to someone in need. And they will speak about her final act of offering herself as a human shield to save Rabbi Mendel Goldstein’s life, as a terrorist opened fire on him with an AR-15 type assault weapon. We mourn her loss and pray for her family to feel the outpouring of love for them and to know that Lori will be honored through the many acts of chesed being done in her memory. While we mourn we are also praying for the healing of Noya Dahan, 8 years old, and her uncle, Almog Peretz, age 32, who came from Sderot, Israel to visit family for Pesach who were injured in the attack.
Like many of you, I found out about this at the end of Passover and the harsh realities of our world sunk in. My heart broke, yet again, over another shooting at a place of worship. We are all feeling the effects of this and other attacks against Jews and people of other faiths, murdered out of senseless hate. And yet we must act.
First- at home. It is important that we speak about these events appropriately with one another and with our children. Here is a helpful guide about having conversations with our children about these atrocities. Please reach out as well if I can be a helpful, compassionate ear.
Second- in our community. Shaarei Tikvah has assessed our security situation and we have taken steps to make sure we doing what is necessary to take care of our members.
Third- in our country- Shaarei Tikvah is committed to speaking up for the value of a diverse America, which is committed to pursuing common decency and tolerance in our communities. We will continue to educate and spread the message of peace, respect, and the infinite value of every human life and to speak out against anti-Semitism, racism, Islamophobia, and bigotry of all kinds. And while rhetoric is important, it is not enough. We must also commit to taking action. Awareness of the realities we face, namely, antisemitism and the rise of white supremacy in America, coupled with a spiraling gun violence epidemic, is a crucial part of our ability to take action and improve our country.
As we witness from these events, white nationalism is real and has followers. Here is an article giving more background to the term, its history in America, and its current activity. White supremacists have used terrorism to spread their hateful messages and invoke fear in Americans. Additionally, we have witnessed 113 mass shootings in 2019 and 2,478 mass shootings since Jan.1 2013. Here are more specific statistics about mass shootings in America. Additionally, we are witnessing the expression of antisemitism on the Left, including a recent antisemitic cartoon in the New York Times, which demonstrates the phenomenon of antisemitism often being masked as anti-Israel sentiment. Here is a strong piece by Brett Stephens describing the cartoon and how it was published.
And with all of the awareness and advocacy, we are also deeply in pain. How do we think about this and still find a reason for hope? This morning at our service we recited a prayer called Tachanun for the first time in a month. Tachanun, which means supplication, is not read during our “season of joy,” which corresponds to the Hebrew month of Nisan, which always falls in the spring.
So after a long hiatus, the words of the prayer really spoke to me this morning as I prayed them. I offer them now as a prayer for strength as we move through this painful moment for our people and for our country. “Lord our God, treat us with compassion all the days of our lives. Assuage our fears, establish the work of our hands, heal our wounds, and save us from the grasp of our enemies. May weeping and wailing not be heard in our homes; may destruction and devastation not be found in our borders.” (Transl. Siddur Sim Shalom)
With prayers for healing and strength for the journey ahead,