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Responding to Today's Tragedy


All of us at Reconstructing Judaism are still processing the shock, grief and heartbreak of the shooting that took place in Pittsburgh at Tree of Life - Or L’Simcha Congregation, which is also the home of our Reconstructionist affiliate, Congregation Dor Hadash. While we still do not know the names of those who were murdered or wounded this morning, our hearts and souls reach out to all whose lives have been shattered by this horrific anti-Semitic act. With heavy hearts, we mourn the dead and pray for the wounded and the surviving mourners. 

We thank the first responders - law enforcement and emergency medical personnel - and we pray for a complete healing and recovery for the police officers who were wounded in the process of confronting the gunman. We also thank the law enforcement personnel in cities and towns across America who quickly fanned out to many synagogues to protect and reassure their Jewish fellow citizens. We are grateful for the widespread condemnation and the expressions of support and solidarity from so many quarters.

In the face of such deadly, hate-inspired violence, we look to one another for courage and mutual support. We look to one another in our movement, throughout the Jewish community, and throughout our entire society. We turn to one another, and to the Source of All, and we pour out our hearts. “Pour out your heart like water before Adonai,” the Book of Lamentations tells us (2:19). That is the first thing we can do, together, in our congregations, at vigils, and in our opportunities to connect with our neighbors of all faiths and backgrounds. 

And that is what is happening—within our movement and beyond. Suzanne Shanbaum, president of our affiliate Ner Shalom in Cotati, Calif., posted on the affiliate presidents’ listserv today “We are all Dor Hadash.” The Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association Facebook group was alive with members tracking down the well-being of all the Reconstructionist rabbis who have emerged out of Pittsburgh and who make their home there now. A member of our affiliate in Eugene, Ore., writes that when she came to Shabbat morning services after hearing the news, she found a local pastor sitting outside the synagogue entrance keeping vigil. And inside the synagogue, a Muslim family had come to services, bringing flowers and condolences. I know that as the days go on, we will hear more and more stories like these.

This is the way we shall overcome. This is the way we will strengthen the bonds of a shared, diverse, vibrant, pluralistic, mutually-respecting, interconnected society. This is how we will build an olam hesed, a world of love (Psalm 89:3).

Karov Adonai l’nishberay lev - God is close to the brokenhearted (Psalms 34:19). Our hearts are broken today. This is the time when we are called to take the Divine love within each of us and share it, with all who mourn, with all who need physical healing, with all who are frightened, with all who are in shock. Let us bring that light and love to one another and to the Jewish community in Squirrel Hill and everywhere. And as Jews, let us open our hearts to receive the love and solidarity that is flowing to us from our neighbors, friends and allies, who see us and love us too. 

Rabbi Deborah Waxman

President and CEO, Reconstructing Judaism; Aaron and Marjorie Ziegelman Presidential Professor, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College

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