Dear Friends and Fellow Clergy,
I am writing to you in the wake of the Tree of Life Synagogue massacre because I am heartbroken once again. The blatant targeting of Jewish people in their sacred house of worship on their blessed day of Sabbath, while in the act of praying to God, has brought me to my knees. I am horror struck, and while not much can shock me these days, I nevertheless am stunned. I have been grappling with the question of what can I do, and not only what can I do, but what must I do to address anti-Semitism that is once again on the rise.
This is not the first time the Jewish people have been targeted for hate and destruction by anti-Semitic forces that place the blame of oppressive systems at their feet. But this time, in addition to the increase in the classic Jewish tropes we are seeing more and more in the media (images of Jews with bags of money, the international cabal, attacks on George Soros), we are seeing that progressive Jews in the U.S. are being targeted for their strong stance on being allies to other targeted people.
The synagogue in Pittsburgh was specifically targeted because of their bold support of immigrants and refugees and their alliance with HIAS, an organization established in the late 1880s to assist the Jewish community of Eastern Europe and Russia to escape the pogroms and which is a strong leader in advocating for the protection of refugees. The weekend of the shooting, HIAS was leading a nation-wide event with over 200 synagogues to bring attention to the current plight of refugees and to take an active stand as Jewish communities. Three of our Jewish institutions in the Pioneer Valley are directly engaged with HIAS: Jewish Family Services of Western MA who is the regional HIAS-affiliated organization, Beit Ahavah Synagogue, and Congregation B’nai Israel. The murderer in Pittsburgh posted on his social media platforms the names of all the synagogues who were affiliated with HIAS and who engaged in the Refugee Shabbat weekend. Beit Ahavah Synagogue and Congregation B’nai Israel were both named.
We must stand again with our Jewish siblings and combat anti-Semitism in our communities and in our country. This is why I have joined the Advisory Board of a new organization, We Stand Together, that has risen from the Tree of Life Massacre and is focused on addressing hate by providing opportunities for “regular people to take brave stands against hate.”
We Stand Together is asking neighbors, friends, and supporters of the Jewish community of the Pioneer Valley to take a bold position against anti-Semitism, and say that “hate has no home here.” We Stand Together is inviting all of us to actively support the Jewish community and take action as allies by downloading a free pdf of a menorah at we-stand-together.org and posting it prominently in our homes, places of worship, or businesses. This first Ally Action against anti-Semitism is an opportunity for everyone in the community to show that we stand in support of the Jewish Community, against anti-Semitism, and with our Jewish friends in the aftermath of the Tree of Life Synagogue Massacre.
I know that each one of you is committed to ending hate in our world. These have been difficult days in our country, with the rise of white supremacist rhetoric and an administration that promotes and enforces policies that are reckless and dangerous. We, as good and faithful people who believe in every person’s right to live their sacred life, must be vocal and visible again.
Here are some actions that can show our support to the Jewish community and our stand against anti-Semitism:
We invite users of this website to post comments in response to posts published here. In order to maintain a respectful community, we insist that comments be polite, respectful and tolerant of opposing viewpoints. We reserve the right to remove comments that are hostile, hateful or abusive to others, or that constitute personal attacks. In the interest of transparency, we highly recommend that users comment using their full names. For those who feel a need for more anonymity, however, we will allow posts using first names and last initial.