To our Temple Gates of Prayer Community:
Since last Saturday we have experienced and watched and listened to news which has been unsettling in its immediacy, and which for Jews has triggered our national group consciousness and memory.
We have always been a people of highest values and have also been a people removed from countries, discriminated against and attacked repeatedly. Every bullet in Pittsburgh touched every one of these nerves in us.
At such moments we ask all the deep questions; Where is God? How can mankind act like this? Is there anywhere that is safe for us? How could this happen in a House of Worship, on a Shabbat? These questions intersect with issues of contemporary politics, gun ownership, urban violence and historic memory.
As your Rabbi, and I know I speak for our Executive Board and Board members, we condemn in the strongest terms the hatred and measuring of any ‘kind’ of human being against any other ‘ kind’ of human being. Our Torah and the Constitution of the United States of America frame the highest regard for the dignity of every human being. The horrendous act last Saturday shattered these aspirations and should be repugnant to all.
As I have written to you in several pieces I sent out during the week, an outpouring of concern and sympathy and compassion has come from people all over the world, and from many religious groups.
I have received personal notes from Germany, Canada, New York, New Jersey, Florida and Georgia. Telephone calls, letters and emails have been sent to me by Baptists, Episcopalians, Catholics, Sikhs and Mormons. These responses have been heartwarming in the face of the shock and disappointment of last Shabbat’s events.
I know members of Congregation Tree of Life in Pittsburgh. Three friends of mine are rabbis in Pittsburgh who are preparing funerals and eulogies, and attending to the extended families involved. As Jews, when something happens to one, it happens to us all. Pittsburgh has been intensely personal for our community.
Our Board and Executive are looking at issues of security, both physical and emotional, and ways to move ahead as a strong, rooted Jewish community.
If there is one thing Jewish people are - and the proof is in our existence - it is resilient. We have no illusions about the nature of reality, yet continually reach for the next vision which will help us survive, and survive grandly.
The #Fill The Seats campaign has been announced asking Jews to attend services. Our presence in our Houses of Worship is the retort to those who would prefer us not to exist. It is a proclamation that we are not - nor will we be - cowed by evil and evil's intent.
Living fully, raising the bar on our rich Jewish heritage and showing up is the answer to a threat.
“Am Yisrael Chai. - the Jewish people lives.”
Live boldly, be present, whole, vibrant and defiant.
Rabbi Mark Biller