The joy and serenity of our Shabbat was pierced this morning with the news of the killing of eleven people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. This afternoon, what we no doubt suspected was confirmed by city officials: that this heinous act of cruelty was borne out of hatred for our people, our values, and our way of life.
Together, with our fellow Americans, and our fellow Jews across the globe, we mourn this tragic loss of life and offer our prayers of comfort to the families of the fallen. Our thoughts are also with the wounded. May God send them refuah sheimah--a speedy and complete recovery. And may God send blessings, along with our gratitude, to the brave members of the Pittsburgh Police Department who risked their lives to save the lives of others.
No one should enter into the House of God with fear in their hearts and we will not allow this chillul hashem, this desecration of God's name, to deter us from fulfilling our mission as a place of worship, learning, and tikun olam. In partnership with the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, we have ramped up our security protocols over these previous months and, as has been the case for several years now, armed guards protect our entrances during all events open to the public. We promise to continue to do everything in our power to make our synagogue a sanctuary from the plague of gun violence that has afflicted places of gathering, learning, and worship with such alarming frequency.
In times of tragedy, we take comfort in the loving embrace of community. Together with the Federation, we will host a vigil of hope and healing in the Beck Family Sanctuary, tomorrow evening at 6:30 pm. Already, we have heard from several faith leaders from across our city who will join us in prayer and in solidarity.
In the coming days, we will also offer information on how to support the families of Tree of Life, as well as the Pittsburgh Jewish community through our Federation.
On Shabbat morning, we recite Psalm 136--a litany of occasions when God's chesed, God's mercy, gave us strength. We offer praise to the One "who remembered us at a time of great darkness, for God's kindness endures forever."
Our fellow Jews were slaughtered this morning; targeted, in part, because they belonged to a community that, like ours, answered HIAS's call to raise awareness of the refugee crises across the globe last Shabbat. Just as God's love shepherded us out of Egypt, so too must we activate our own chesed to ease the pain of those in search of shelter and protection--in whatever way we can, in whatever way we believe to be just.
It is for this reason--our commitment to kindness, empathy, and compassion--that members of our Jewish family were murdered in cold blood. It was the hope of this madman this his act would deter us from building a world whose foundation is pure lovingkindness.
In the name of those tragically ripped from our lives today, in the name of our God, we pledge that no act of hatred and terror will keep us from chanting next Shabbat and every Shabbat to come that our "acts of chesed shall be everlasting."
May the memories of our departed brothers and sisters always endure as a blessing.
Rabbi Ari Sunshine
Rabbi Adam Roffman
Rabbi Shira Wallach
Hazzan Itzhak Zhrebker
Shearith Israel clergy, staff and congregants share