It is impossible to share the full range of emotions I have felt over the last week. At this time last Friday I had just returned from a week-long trip to Israel with more than 3,000 Jewish Federation volunteers and professionals. I felt the tremendous pride and joy and wonder that always accompanies such a trip. Those positive emotions were quickly overshadowed by the horrific attack at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. As we learned more about this attempt to terrorize our way of life I felt shock, fear, anger, and profound sadness. We continue to mourn those who were lost in Pittsburgh and pray for the physical and emotional recovery of all those who were injured and affected.
If Saturday’s tragic events shattered a part of my faith in humanity, Monday night fully restored it. Looking out at the crowd of Rhode Islanders who had gathered — more than 1,000 in total — it was hard not to be hopeful. People of all faiths, of all backgrounds, came together to pray with us, mourn with us, take action with us, and be with us to remember the victims of the tragedy and to support each other. It was a cold night, but my heart and my soul were warmed.
Now, a few days later, I am filled with pride and gratitude. Pride at how our community came together in the wake of tragedy. Proud that others stood with us. Proud that so many are finding ways to honor the victims.
And I am immensely grateful to our clergy in the Jewish community and Rhode Island’s broader inter-faith community. Rabbi Mack, Rabbi Goldwasser, Rabbi Dolinger, Rabbi Schochet and the entire rabbinic community have been working with us all week. On a personal note, they have been a tremendous support to me as I have worked to process this news.
I am grateful to our staff at the Jewish Alliance, who have rallied together and worked long hours to help give this community the support it needs in this difficult time. I especially want to thank Wendy Joering and Brian Sullivan who have been working around the clock to make sure all of our Jewish institutions are protected and that the community has the resources and information it needs to begin to heal.
I am grateful to all of our public safety officials in the area who have worked so closely with the Jewish community and were by our side the moment the tragedy in Pittsburgh unfolded. They have made us feel safe and secure and words cannot fully express our thanks.
I am grateful to our elected officials who came off of the campaign trail to spend time with us in our hour of need. It was inspiring to see so many elected officials unite and stand with us in solidarity.
Finally, I am grateful to the entire Jewish community, locally and globally, which has come together in tragedy, but emerges stronger and more united than ever.
Many people have been asking how we move forward. They have been asking, “What’s next?” If you would like, you can support the victims and families at Tree of Life Synagogue through our friends at the Pittsburgh Federation. Additionally, I encourage you to celebrate your Judaism now more than ever. Attend services, host or attend a Shabbat dinner. We are one people, and though Shabbat was taken from us in the name of hate, we will reclaim it together in the name of love.
Wishing you continued healing and a peaceful Shabbat.