Rabbi Jake’s message about the attack in Pittsburgh

Shared from Rabbi Jake’s Facebook page

I stepped off the bimah after celebrating an incredible bar mitzvah to news of the horrific hate incident which occurred during this morning’s Shabbat services at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. My heart breaks not only for the lives lost and forever changed, but for the terror that such an incident can inspire, even for those geographically far from the attack.

As a parent, you may be struggling with how to talk to your children about this attack, particularly given its antisemitic nature and implications for our day-to-day lives as Jews. Many of us may not have been prepared to explain to our children that there are people who hate us simply because we are Jews. I’ve included some links below about ways to talk to your children about terrorism and about antisemitism. The number one piece of advice is to be open and honest (without going into too much detail). Creating a supportive space where our children feel comfortable asking questions is essential for helping them process scary events.

While we are waiting for more news to come out, the congregation is preparing for a more long-term response. The Montgomery Police Department will be on hand tomorrow from 8:30 to 12:00 to supervise religious school drop off and pick up. I will also be in my office tomorrow during and after religious school for all those who would like to come by and talk.

We talk a lot as rabbis about healthy identity formation. We strive to create an atmosphere where kids and adults can develop a positive self-identity as Jews. Attacks like this morning’s reinforce a sense of group identity, but one that is negative. If the positive experiences don’t outweigh the negative, our primary identification with being Jewish becomes based in fear. As a community, we at CKS strive to counter that fear with love and support. Chesed is deeply ingrained in our community’s identity.

On days like today, it can feel hard to say Shabbat Shalom, especially knowing that that Shalom can be so fragile. But we say it, nonetheless, because we believe in Shalom, and we won’t let extremists define what it means to be Jewish in America.

I want to leave you with a remarkable poem by my friend, classmate, and colleague, Rabbi Alex Weissman.

A Prayer for Wholeness
Oh World of Miracles, you are supremely broken.
Your shards are painful and cutting.
Your pieces are scattered across the globe, aching for wholeness.
We seek justice and peace in you.
We long and love, divine sparks igniting fires within us.
We tend the embers and feed the flames, at times nearly consuming ourselves and our neighbors.
We pray for—no, we demand—open heartedness and resilience.
We seek grace and peace.
We pursue justice.
May the fragments of our world and the brokenness of our souls be blessed with strength, wisdom, and compassion.
May we be whole again, quickly, in our days.

I love this poem – and I hate how useful it continues to be. May we work together to bring wholeness and healing to a profoundly broken world. Shabbat Shalom.

How to talk to children about terrorist attacks
How to talk to children about antisemitism
A Prayer for Wholeness

Published in Rabbi Jake's Blog on October 27, 2018
Rabbi Jacob Best Adler