All of us have such a heavy heart tonight as we learn more about the horrendous attack on the synagogue in Pittsburgh. It is so hard to imagine while we were sitting in our synagogue this morning, enjoying a wonderful Shabbat service, our fellow Jews were attacked and murdered during their worship at their synagogue - Tree of Life Congregation. Tonight, we mourn with the Jewish community of Pittsburgh in the wake of this terrible shooting. In response to this story, a number of things have been put in place for tomorrow in Princeton.
The security and safety of everyone in our community are our highest priorities. Please know that extra security measures have been put in place for Religious School and our other programs tomorrow. I am grateful that Princeton Chief of Police, Nick Sutter was in touch with me earlier today as soon as he heard the news to offer his assistance to us. There will be a police presence in and around TJC tomorrow during Religious School. There will be opportunities tomorrow morning to talk with our students and teachers about the events of earlier today in the hope that we can answer their questions and also reassure them of their safety.
Amongst the other people who contacted me soon after the news are my colleagues in the Princeton Clergy Association including both Rev. Dave Davis and Rev. Lauren McFeeters from Nassau Presbyterian Church. (Knowing that I do not answer my cell phone on Shabbat, Rev. Davis came to my house this afternoon so that we could talk.) We are organizing a Community Prayer Service that will take place tomorrow at 5 PM at Nassau Presbyterian Church on Nassau Street. I encourage you to join me, Cantor Warschauer, Linda Meisel and other leaders of TJC along with Princeton Community Leaders who will gather to mourn the loss of life, pray for the families who lost loved ones and respond to these horrible acts of Anti-Semitism. I have learned in my years in Princeton that when a hate crime is committed against a member of any religious group or any ethnic group or any race in America, my friends and colleagues join me to respond with love and support. The Jewish community has been there in the past when the hateful acts were directed towards others and we are so grateful now to feel the love and support from our friends now when we need it.
According to the reports I heard, the number of people who were killed today is 11. That is 11 innocent lives who walked into their synagogue this morning to observe Shabbat, to be a part of a religious community and to celebrate a baby naming of a baby girl. The time they spent in their Sanctuary should have been a time to enhance their lives and deepen their connections to their faith. Because of this despicable act, their lives were gunned down. One way that we can honor these 11 individuals is to come together tomorrow, either in the afternoon or perhaps in the morning for our Sunday morning minyan. As we know, 11 people make up more than a minyan of people. How fitting it would be if we come together in our minyan, to mourn their passing, to honor their memory and to pray for their families. Let's make sure that our minyan tomorrow is at least 10 plus 1 to honor the 11 lives that were lost today.
The synagogue where this killing took place is named Tree of Life. Many of us in our local community have a personal connection to this synagogue. We should keep the members of this congregation in our prayers as we always honor our "Tree of Life." Earlier today, as we returned the Torah to the Ark we sang the powerful prayer Etz Hayim Hee - it is a Tree of Life to those who it close - let everyone who does so feel connected. We must always feel a connection to the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh and to the Tree of Life we call our sacred Torah. By doing our part to speak out against hatred of any kind, by teaching our children to respect and accept others, by coming together with friends and neighbors who support common causes and respect one another, we are living out the values of our Torah - our Tree of Life.
Laila Tov - I hope to see you tomorrow when we can talk more
Rabbi Adam Feldman