11 Souls Taken. 11 Souls Lost.

As we all attempt to make sense out of last weekend’s tragedy in Pittsburgh, we feel both despair and hope. And we feel grateful to the thousands who gathered together at Congregation Beth Israel to stand together against hate. Below are the remarks I shared with the gathering. Please feel free to share with others.

If we can’t be Jewish in a synagogue, where can we be Jewish?
I woke up this morning to the cries of my almost 2-year-old daughter. It has become fairly regular these days to hear her cries as she becomes more aware of her surroundings, as she grows more and more attached to her mother and to the ever-blossoming world around her. But in these most recent dark days, her cries echo in our home in a new and somber way. Her cries are innocent, yet today I recognize the pain more clearly. There is a sense of loss, a sense of fear, a sense that something is wrong in the world. And there is something wrong in this world where 11 souls could be targeted for no other reason than being Jewish.

If we can’t be Jewish in a synagogue, where can we be Jewish? 
11 human souls, taken from their families. I would have wanted to protect them; I want to protect my friends. I want to protect my family. I want to protect my new community. And so, I hold my wife and daughter in a tight embrace, and I stand here now and embrace my new community in San Diego.
If we can’t be Jewish in a synagogue, where can we be Jewish? 
I didn’t imagine that as the new Federation CEO I would be standing here in front of you today talking about such horrors, such a tragedy. And yet, here I am. Here we are. Hineinu. Devasted, but hopeful. I believe that together, out of the ashes of this senseless violence, we can rise with a renewed sense of purpose and connection. Of belonging to a community. Of being part of the Jewish people. 

For thousands of years, we have stood together in moments like this. But, it’s different now. Today, we stand alongside, and supported by, our brothers and sisters of every religion, race, and color. Today, we stand as a people not separated by our differences, but unified by our hopes and aspirations. Today we stand like a Tree of Life whose root system stretches far, wide, and strong across our entire nation, anchoring our height and reach. Our branches and leaves sing the words Love, Peace, and Humanity with every unifying breath.
I’m certain we all feel the urge to act and to do something, as individuals or together. This is not a time to remain silent. We must not be driven by fear, but by our instinct to help, to love, to support, to stay strong. We have encouraged this community to give directly to the Pittsburgh Federation's Jewish Emergency Fund. We also invite all members of our community to send messages, prayers and condolences to the Federation so that we can collectively share those messages of support with our friends in Pittsburgh.
So, when I ask, if we can’t be Jewish in a synagogue, where can we be Jewish? 
Perhaps the answer is simple. We can be Jewish. Here and now. Together. 


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