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Oct 28 2018 Speech at Har Hashem Gathering in Response to Pittsburgh Attack

 

 

Thank you everybody for being here with us today.  

 

We should not underestimate what a stretch it is for many of us to show up in public in this sort of way the day after an attack, and I honor everybody’s integrity and courage in making it here - to stand in solidarity, to stand for peace, for justice, for healing.

 

As a congregational rabbi, the magnitude of the past 24 hours’ events has just begun to sink in.  The extent of the impact being felt by many many members of our community is quite profound, and it is complex.

 

I have heard from people’s mouths not just grief and pain, but also the sadness that comes with a sense of inevitability - that something like this was going to happen sooner or later.

 

I also hear from people a sense of disquiet about what is next; what we can expect this week’s news cycle to be like for us; and what sentiments of solidarity we may expect our non-Jewish community members and colleagues and friends to express… or not express.  And whether, if they do try to communicate support, this will be done in a way that actually feels helpful and appropriate to us.

 

Simultaneous to these anxieties about responses from the media, and from our wider community, we fear also where acts such as these may lead.  We fear what this may be a sign of.

 

And beyond all this, beyond these fears for the future, I think what is most generally felt is a great immediacy of this impact, a great closeness to events, for as we say, kol Yisrael arevim zeh ba’zeh: as Jewish people we feel interconnected with all other Jewish people.  We are part of one family, one tribe.

 

This is not just because it’s a small Jewish world and we probably all know someone from Pittsburg, or have some connection with someone who was injured or killed yesterday.

 

More than this, the closeness of contact comes from a greater sense of shared identity - kol Yisrael arevim zeh ba’zeh.  We are interconnected.

 

And all of this is true.

 

All of this pain I receive, I validate, I reflect and I honor.

 

All of this needs to be said; all of this needs to be stood for.

 

And, in my position as a leader in this community, I want to say a couple of other things, and to encourage everyone to take one or two steps backwards, to gain a slightly wider perspective, to understand not just that kol Yisrael arevim zeh ba’zeh - not just that the whole Jewish people are interconnected - but kol bnei Adam arevim zeh ba’zeh: the whole human family is interconnected.  

 

Kol ha’olam kulo arevim zeh ba’zeh - the whole world, now, is interconnected.  

 

As our teacher Reb Zalman pointed out, a cosmic shift in human consciousness occurred when we first saw that image of the world taken from space, the Earth from the outside.  After that, we gained a completely new understanding - and some of us grew up with that understanding - of what it means to be sharing one planet, one future, one destiny as a human race.

 

So I want to say that while the events that took place this past Shabbat are horrific, and potentially presage more horrific things, I think it is important to name that this is not state-sponsored violence against the Jewish community - whatever disturbing discourses, comments or lack of comments may be opening the way for that.

 

What does state-sponsored violence look like?

 

Well, it is not the case that the Jewish community has had over 30% of its menfolk incarcerated, which is the lived reality of the African American community; or that as Jews, at least as white Jews, we can expect to be routinely stopped and asked for our papers, as is the case with the Latino community.

 

So even as we recognize the sorrow, the trauma, the suffering that we are entirely legitimately feeling right now, I think it’s important to see with greater perspective where we stand within our greater social reality at this moment in time.

 

Yes, we need to stand with the Jewish community.

Yes, we need to stand with ALL communities that are the targets of violence.  

 

Yes, the Jewish community now feels a little less safe.  

 

But I want to remind us, friends, that no one in this time and place is all that safe.

 

Schoolchildren are not safe in their schools.

People going to the cinema are not safe watching a movie.

People going to the club are not safe.

 

So as we respond to this tragedy, to me it is necessary and relevant to say that this conversation is not only about calling for love over hate, or for a universal respect for human life.

 

This moment is also about recognizing the need to end the accessibility of weapons of mass murder, to prohibit there being military-grade weaponry in the hands of citizens.

 

[Applause]

Thank you.  I’m glad that you agree.  I hope that our collective power can together make a change, at the local level and beyond.

 

So as I conclude, I want to say that we have come here to stand together, so first I want to take a moment to honor the clergy of other faiths who have taken time out of their Sundays to come and be with us here today.

 

Please stand.  Thank you. [Applause]

 

And please, non-Jewish community members, parishioners, non-clergy who have come here to stand in solidarity, would you please stand.  We thank you.  [Applause].

 

And finally, since we are here to stand together, I want to invite everybody please, if you are able, to stand; and to take a moment, as you feel your feet on the floor, and you feel this mass of people to the left of you, to the right of you, behind you, around you: 

 

To feel this web of connection, to feel this web of solidarity, to feel this faith, this hope for a better future that brings us together.

 

Kulanu arevim zeh ba’zeh: We are all interconnected.

Wed, November 14 2018 6 Kislev 5779