These were the Rabbi's remarks at the Community Prayer Service held at Nassau Presbyterian Church as Princeton Community leaders gathered to mourn the loss of life in Pittsburgh.
Rabbi's Remarks - Community Prayer Service
October 28, 2018
On behalf of The Jewish Center of Princeton, our President Linda Meisel and the lay leadership and staff, the multi-generational Jewish community in Princeton and beyond Princeton, we are grateful to be here.
Gratitude - for friendship in this community - proud to be part of the Princeton greater community and to know that we have friends here who care about us and who stand with us on challenging days like today. I am so grateful to Rev. Davis and Rev. McFeeters, the lay and professional leaders of Nassau Presbyterian Church for hosting this Community Prayer Service today, here in a place that represents love and community, acceptance and trust. I am grateful to my friends in the Princeton Clergy Association who contacted me yesterday right after they heard this horrible news and reached out, including one dear friend who came to my house and knocked on my door, because it was Shabbat, the most important day of the week, when Jews all over the world gather in synagogue like we did up the road here at The Jewish Center, and individuals did at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh. I am grateful to my friends and colleagues in this town for coming together to show support to me and the Jewish Community who feel this tragedy so personally. I am also grateful to the members of the Princeton Police Department who also contacted me yesterday, to Chief Nicolas Sutter and the other men and women who serve on the Police force in this community, for their support and understanding, for their assistance at our synagogue this morning to help our young people and congregants feel safe and secure. To the members of the Princeton Police who are here, we thank you for what you do for us, through you we thank the brave men and women of the Pittsburgh Police Department who risked their lives yesterday by going into the mayhem, by confronting this gunman and by making sure the loss of life and havoc that was created was limited as much as possible.
It is so good to be here with all of you - How wonderful it is for all of us, men, women and children, sisters and brothers to be here together - We have a song that says these exact words that Cantor Warschauer will now lead, Hinei Mah Tov Uma Naim, Shevet Achim Gam Yachad. How grateful we are to all be here together - sisters and brothers of faith,
Song - Hinei Mah Tov - How Wonderful it is to be Together - Cantor Jeff Warschauer
As grateful as I am to be here today, I know, we all know it has been such a difficult two days - such a painful 36 hours.
We are horrified, devastated and deeply saddened by the news of this anti-Semitic act of hatred. We in the greater Princeton community know that an attack on any of us is an attack on all of us. We are here today in a house of worship, a place that members of this congregation gathered this morning in a similar way to all of the other churches who met this morning, just like our sisters and brothers in the Muslim community gathered on Friday at their house of worship and we Jews gathered in our synagogue yesterday, on Shabbat, a day that is described as a day that we are to bring Kedusha, sacredness and holiness into our lives. The members of Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh did just that - they went to Shabbat services, the gathered with their friends and family, to celebrate Shabbat, to celebrate the ceremony to announce the Hebrew name of a beautiful baby girl and to just be there. 11 individuals lost their lives, many others were wounded, and I am certain everyone else who was in that building experienced something that will change them forever.
These are the names of the 11 people who were killed yesterday:
-Joyce Fienberg, 75, of Oakland, City of Pittsburgh
-Richard Gottfried, 65, of Ross Township
-Rose Mallinger, 97, of Squirrel Hill, City of Pittsburgh
-Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, of Edgewood Borough
-Cecil Rosenthal, 59, of Squirrel Hill, City of Pittsburgh
-David Rosenthal, 54, (brother of Cecil), of Squirrel Hill
-Bernice Simon, 84, of Wilkinsburg
-Sylvan Simon, 86, (husband of Bernice), of Wilkinsburg
-Daniel Stein, 71, of Squirrel Hill, City of Pittsburgh
-Melvin Wax, 88, of Squirrel Hill, City of Pittsburgh
-Irving Younger, 69, of Mt. Washington, City of Pittsburgh
Since I heard the news yesterday, I have been in touch with people in the Jewish community of Squirrel Hill, I have friends who grew up at that synagogue and whose religious life began in the Sanctuary, classrooms and social spaces in that building. The Jewish community is relatively small and fairly well connected so it may not surprise you to know that people in our congregation in Princeton have relatives and friends in the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh including some of those who lost their lives, some who were injured and also the Rabbi Emeritus of the Congregation has family in Princeton. This hits us very close to home.
The Anti-Defamation League is saying that this tragedy is the worst attack ever on the Jewish community on American soil. We know too well, that actions like this, hate crimes like we witnessed yesterday are on the rise in this country and that includes acts of Anti-Semitism. We all know that something must be done to address this locally and nationally. We all know that times like this call for us to have very challenging conversations with our children and grandchildren, with our friends and co-workers, with our sisters and brothers and friends and neighbors. We know that the conversations will lead us to discuss political issues such as gun violence and care for the mentally ill, they will lead us to want to reach out to our elected officials to share our views. We will need to talk about extra safety precautions that need to be put in place in synagogues, churches and mosques, schools and child care centers, but it is these difficult conversations we need to have. And when we do, we must remember to always emphasize our common religious beliefs including the text from the Biblical Book of Leviticus to love thy neighbor as thyself, from the Book of Genesis when we learn that all of humanity is created in God's image, and from the powerful words of the prophet Micah when he is asked what does God want from us, to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly before your God.
Humble people do not perform acts of hate. People who love mercy and want to do justice do not attack synagogues, do not attack other ethnic groups. Humble people do not disparage the African American Community, the LGBT Community, the Hispanic Community, the Muslim Community, the Christian Community and do not attack the Jewish Community.
We in the Jewish community understand the role that we can play in the greater community by living out God's mandate of rebuilding our world, of lifting people up, of contributing to the greater good and to love the stranger, orphan and widow. It is in our sacred texts and it is in our religious DNA.
What is our response to this tragedy:
Sorrow for the loss of life
Sadness for the attack on a house of worship - a synagogue
Hope that these attacks will somehow not continue in any form in this country
Gratitude for those who stepped in to save people and for those who support us today
Pride in who we are and in our shared common religious values that bring us together
My prayer today is
Ribono Shel Olam - Master of the Universe, we turn to you today on this very difficult day. We ask that you provide us with Your Light and Your Strength to face the challenges of today, to find the right words to say to our children and others who are asking us to answer the difficult questions, we ask for Your Guidance to lead us through these times without losing our faith, our faith in You, our faith in ourselves and our faith in humanity. We ask for Your wisdom to help us find the words and the courage to speak out against evil when we see it, to respond to others who use inappropriate language or slang, hateful language that is demeaning to any ethnic group, to respond when we see hateful posts online or we hear them in conversation, we ask for wisdom to finally address the issues regarding gun violence legislation and we ask you God today to comfort the families who lost loved ones and to comfort us so that we never lose our faith in the future.