Since Pittsburgh... Temple Israel has had hundreds of calls, cards and visits, all wishing us well after the attack. A large number of non-Jews, including the head of the town council and many ministers, attended a vigil and a Kristallnacht event. We are loved, held and joined by many good people in Greenfield.
Since Pittsburgh, attendance is up at services and educational programs, not just the events commemorating our losses. I am bouyed by this. After all, what does a deranged anti-semite have to do with our Jewish identity? We did not survive historic injustice because of anti-semitism - but in spite of it. What survived, what we treasure, is the teaching values and practices of Judaism. Maybe this attack was a wake-up call, to remind us: "This is precious to me. I treasure this culture." One congregant told me: "I am wearing my yarmulke now, in solidarity."
I feel a special responsibility to comfort my congregation and to take a visible place in the wider community. This is a difficult task. What words do I have that can makes sense, that can help us heal from this loss of innocence? What can you and I and the other well-intentioned people do to ameliorate the hatred, misinformation and suffering of those who might sooth themselves by practicing violence?
Last Sunday 100 members of our community learned together in hevruta, small study groups, from the sermons of the rebbe of the Warsaw ghetto. Jews and Gentiles, students and elders. I cannot describe the feeling I had while watching this happen. We were nourished by the words of some of the last sermons offered by the rebbe, Rabbi Kalanymous Shapira; his words were the very last hasidic teachings that were written in Europe, until this day. My deep satisfaction was tempered by this: It is tragic that his words of inspiration are needed again.
Rabbi Kalanymous wrote his sermons over the course of 2 years in the ghetto without once mentioning the words: Nazi, German or war. Until the very end, his teaching was to bring out one's essence in the service of an authentic relationship with ourselves, each other and our Creator. He preached "When the knife is at your neck, have hope." It is almost impossible to read his words of self-sacrifice and hope, knowing what he went thru and how much he suffered watching his people. At the end of his writing, he despaired that the Jewish tradition itself might be lost. But that was not to be. His buried treasure of sermons was unearthed in 1956, and read in our synagogue in 2018, by Jews and Gentiles, together.
Am Yisrael Chai; our people, the God-Wrestlers, survive.