Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting

Dear friend, 

This morning at the class, I heard the horrifying news of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, but until after Shabbos when I turned on my phone it didn't really hit me.  Eleven of our beautiful brother's and sister's lives were cut short in the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the history of America.  I spent some good time in Pittsburgh, walking the streets of Squirrel Hill, just blocks away from this shooting, while visiting my uncle and his family there.  The attacker was a crazy anti-semite and we are shaken to our core and mourning the loss of these beautiful souls. 

Unfortunately, shootings have become so common that sometimes we just accept this as a fact of life... until it happens in a synagogue.  Even in America, which is the most open and tolerant country that Jews have ever been welcomed to, anti-Semitism is still the oldest and newest brand of hate, and it reared it's ugly head in the very place that should feel holy and safe. 

What can we do to stay safe?  Should we disguise ourselves so that they can't recognize us?  Should we stay away from the synagogue?  Should we just huddle at home in fear? 

All of those methods have been tried and tested, and failed.  It won't stop the hate and it won't really keep you safer.  If people stopped going to synagogues, malls, or work, and if people didn't go to concerts, Israel, or church to avoid being targets, the only winners would be the haters. 

The innocent lives that the haters and terrorists take is relatively minute in comparison to the attention they receive.  And that is precisely their goal.  The goal of terrorism is not to kill as many people as possible (maybe it's a secondary goal).  The goal of terrorism is to change how people live their lives.  They want us to live in fear.  They want us shut the doors of the synagogues because we know they are potential targets.

America's response to 9/11 was to build towers bigger and more beautiful than the lost towers, and that's the right response.  The way we can show the haters of the world that they're going to lose is precisely by holding our heads up proud.

Yes, holding our heads up proud is part of it, but there's even more.  The way to fight darkness is not with a gun or a knife.  The way to fight darkness is by adding in light.  For us, mitzvos are candles and Torah is light.  Please take on a mitzvah which you haven't been careful with in memory of the victims and as ammunition against the hater's cause.  If you'd respond with a specific mitzvah, I'd be grateful.

For women and girls I'd suggest making sure to light Shabbos candles on time, which add physical as well as spiritual light into the world. If you'd like to be added to the weekly candle lighting reminder text please let me know. For men, I'd recommend Tefillin.  The Talmud says that when you where Tefillin, the nations of the world will see that the name of G-d is upon you. If you don't put on every day, please make a point to do it this coming week.  I will make myself available to anyone who'd like to come by to put on tefillin.


Yes, we must be vigilant.  I've been in touch with the police department specifically about synagogue safety for over two years, and I just corresponded with them again tonight, as well as taken some other precautions. 

Once we've done everything in our power to be proactively safe, we pick our heads up high, and head straight back to synagogue to show this loser that he lost and we won.

Sincerely, 

Rabbi Abrams

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