Pittsburgh, One Year Later

Pittsburgh, One Year Later

From the desk of Rabbi David Lyon

One year ago, a lone gunman walked into Tree of Life Synagogue, in Pittsburgh, and murdered and injured worshipers in the synagogue. The horrifying news spread around the world, but it left the deepest impressions on Jewish communities, especially in America. If it can happen in America, then it can happen anywhere; and, if it’s happening here at all, then something has changed. But, have things changed forever?

We fear the things we don’t understand. This unfortunate trend is something we know a lot about in history, but we understand little about it here. It’s in our nature to want to believe that in America, things are different. We want to believe that in America, the home of the free, Jews are safer and more secure than ever before in history. But, Jewish history has proven that we aren’t always at home where we are even if we’ve been here for generations.

Rather than fear or do nothing, history and experience have taught us that there is something we can do about anti-Semitism and rising violence against Jews. This is, without a doubt, the time to do something about increasing violence against Jews.

At Congregation Beth Israel, we are keenly interested in social justice issues, but not more than we are about the safety and security of Jews at home and in the synagogue in America. No one is more concerned than we are, and no one will come to our aid faster than we will. We have at least two ways to be engaged at the congregation, in addition to community-wide agencies like AJC and ADL, which do good work on our behalf.

ABIDE (Advocacy at Beth Israel for Diversity through Education) has learned from Beth Israel members that gun safety (not gun law) is important to us. We recently held an important program with Mothers Demand Action (MDA), to learn about SMART, which is an acronym that describes how to create a safe environment for guns where families, children, and the community gathers. ABIDE also advocates for social justice issues that contribute to the well-being and peace of our neighbors.

Our Israel Advocacy Committee promotes Israel through education for adults and children, community-wide programming and events, and congregational trips to Israel, every two years. Beth Israel has become a huge advocate for Israel’s sovereignty and safety. We also join other Reform synagogues in our mutual effort to promote Reform social and religious values in Reform synagogues and communities in Israel.

Our fears are well-founded, but greater understanding is just a step away in programs, events, and community work that begins at Congregation Beth Israel. We can turn fear into faith, and ignorance into knowing, because our future is here and Jewish heritage and culture, values and faith have contributed more than we can enumerate to world history and to our home in America.

As we commemorate the awful day in Pittsburgh, at Shabbat services at 6:30pm in the Gordon Chapel, we’ll light one light to honor the memory of those who died, and one for the future that will not be extinguished by hatred. Praised are You, Adonai, our God, Oseh HaShalom, the One who makes peace. Amen.