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From Rabbi Benjamin to Our Community

Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018

Dear Havurah Community,

It is hard to know where to begin to respond to the tragedy that struck the Tree of Life Or L’Simcha Congregation yesterday. This hateful and violent act of anti-Semitism was unleashed upon our fellow Jews as they gathered to join in prayer and to celebrate life. Our hearts are with the families of those murdered, and with the entire community as they endure these losses and this terrifying trauma. We pray for the healing of those injured in body and in spirit, and for the entire Pittsburgh Jewish community — may they know peace and security once again.

Throughout the day yesterday, I received messages of support and comfort from colleagues. Christian and Muslim leaders sending love and prayers, assuring me that they are here with us and for us. It brought me back to several years ago in Corvallis when our local mosque was attacked and nearly burned down. Faith leaders and communities showed up at the mosque and told our Muslim neighbors that they were not alone. We sincerely meant it, and I know that those expressions of kinship meant a great deal to them. As I responded to the messages last night, I felt that same sense of kinship, and the same trust in the power of that kinship to guide us through this dark moment. When forces come to destroy and terrorize, we can and we must continue to find one another. And as we do, we understand more deeply that we are in this together. The sorrow, fear, and anger that we in the Jewish community feel, while unique to our particular journey, are also the same sorrow, fear, and anger felt by all communities who are targeted. As we stand together as Jews, we stand with all those who yearn for safety and freedom. In this time, more than ever, we must dedicate ourselves to continuing the work in which Havurah is invested — that of loving our neighbor and building bridges wherever possible, that of opposing injustice and pursuing our vision of a less violent and more compassionate world. In this way, we enhance the safety of our own community along with that of all people who are vulnerable.

We also, in this time, need to draw comfort from one another. There will be a vigil at Congregation Beth Israel today at 4:00 pm, led by the Oregon Board of Rabbis and the Jewish Federation, along with other community leaders. In addition, Shir Tikvah is hosting a vigil at 5:00 pm.

And within the Havurah community, we need to be here for each other right now. Let us make room for our hearts to break together, and let us draw strength from each other amidst feelings of fear and insecurity. If I can be of support to anyone as you navigate the difficult emotional and spiritual terrain following this tragedy, please reach out to me. And please reach out to one another.

May the memories of each individual slain yesterday be a blessing in the lives of their loved ones and communities. Through love and courage, may we dissolve hatred. And may all who dwell on earth be safe.

Rabbi Benjamin

Fri, November 16 2018 8 Kislev 5779