It has been such a difficult few days as we all watch the news stories and reactions to the attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. It is hard to accept that something like this can happen in our country. As one member of the congregation said to me, "I never thought this would happen in America." Houses of worship are places of God and are supposed to be among the safest places in our country - the sanctuaries that provide us a safe space to escape the rest of the world.
We Jews understand how to respond to the loss of life, how to care for those who lose their lives and how to comfort the bereaved. Today, that process begins in Pittsburgh as the first three victims are laid to rest and the series of funerals begin. As this process unfolds, we will continue to honor the memory of these 11 individuals and look for ways to perhaps to allow their legacy and their values to inspire us as we go forward.
It has been a great comfort to me to receive so many messages from people in our greater community who understand this moment for the Jewish community. It was very inspiring to be with many of you, and so many members of our Princeton community, at the Prayer Service on Sunday evening at Nassau Presbyterian Church. Many of you told me that the service was a way to begin our healing process and that you found so much comfort to be in the presence of others who mourn with us and who care about us.
The TJC leadership and Board are continuing to talk about security measures here in our building and ways that we can comfort and support one another. As I said to the Board, this is about both our children feeling safe and all of us feeling safe. We need to provide opportunities for all of us to share our feelings and emotions with one another (and to continue to strengthen one another). We are grateful to our local Jewish Family and Children's Services for providing support. We sent out a message earlier today with that information.
We also want to let you know about our plans for this coming Shabbat. The eleven people who were killed were Shabbat regulars in their congregation. As others have said, they were the stalwarts of the community, the people who attended synagogue regularly and who greeted people at the door, handed others a Siddur, celebrated the joyous events and provided comfort to those who were experiencing sorrow. We all want to do something to honor these people and I want to suggest that one of the best things we can do is to follow their example and come to shul this coming Shabbat. The Jewish Federation is calling this weekend Solidarity Shabbat and The American Jewish Committee (AJC) is calling it #ShowupforShabbat. We are joining with these organizations and synagogues all over the world in this statement of solidarity and support and comfort and hope.
Many of you have been in contact with me since Shabbat and I am always available to talk, comfort and try to process all of this together. Please be in touch with me if I can do anything to help you. We stand together as one community this week - we really need each other.
My colleague Rabbi Naomi Levy wrote this beautiful prayer this week in response to the events in Pittsburgh and I wanted to share it with all of you:
A Prayer for the Dead of Tree of Life Congregation
We are devastated, God, our hearts are breaking in this time of shock and mourning.
The loss is overwhelming.
Send comfort and strength, God, to grieving family members.
Send healing to the injured, send strength and wisdom to their doctors and nurses.
Bless the courageous police officers who risked their lives to protect innocent lives.
Shield us from despair, God, ease our pain. Let our fears give way to hope.
Lead us to join together as a nation to put an end to anti-Semitism, an end to hatred, an end to gun violence.
Teach us, God, to honor the souls we have lost by raising our hands and voices together in the cause of peace.
Because Torah is a Tree of Life and all its paths are peaceful.
Work through us, God. Turn our helplessness into action.
Teach us to believe that we can rise up from this tragedy and banish the hate that is tearing our world apart.
We must never be indifferent to the plight of any who suffer.
We must learn to care, to open our hearts and open our hands. Innocent blood is calling out to us.
God of the brokenhearted, God of the living, God of the dead, gather the souls of the victims into Your eternal shelter. Let them find peace in Your presence, God.
Their lives have ended but their lights can never be extinguished.
May they shine on us always and illuminate our way.
Rabbi Adam Feldman