This morning at PCS we gathered with a small group for Shabbat morning prayer and study. It was a beautiful and spiritual morning and some of us stayed late for our study session on Tikkun Olam, repairing the world.
As I got ready to leave, I saw text messages about the horrible attack at Tree of Life Congregation in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh. As we prayed in Pleasantville, eleven of our fellow Jews had been murdered in their own congregational home by a gunman who shouted antisemitic hatred. Others, including police officers, were seriously wounded. The attacker had recently posted on social media of his hatred for HIAS, the Jewish organization that sponsored last week's national Refugee Shabbat.
As those of us still at PCS got this dreadful news, we gathered in front of the open ark for a prayer. Together with our synagogue president, Leyla Nakisbendi, I offer deepest condolences and healing and support to the community in Pittsburgh and to all of Am Yisrael.
Please join us Sunday morning, October 28, at promptly at 9:15 for a short vigil of prayer and mutual support during Hebrew School. Grades K-6 will be dismissed to their rooms from morning prayers and the B'nei Mitzvah class, parents, and any interested PCS members are encouraged to remain for a short memorial prayer, 9:15-9:30am. If you want to stay after that in the company of our community, there will be a space in the back room for you to visit with one another. (Those who arrive after 9:15 will need to go to the back door and ring the bell, as we are continuing to keep doors locked during Hebrew School.)
We are also attentive to security for our own PCS community. Pleasantville Police Department will add special attention to our synagogue to their patrol, and we are planning an additional security review to those we have already conducted.
Prayers offer us comfort and a way to connect to God and community at this difficult time. But after we pray we must also act, to oppose the current rise in hatred and inflammatory speech, defamation and irresponsible verbal violence that leads to physical violence.
This terrible antisemitic crime, perpetrated with firearms, is also the latest in our scourge of mass shootings. Unless we can come together to take action about the plague of gun violence, there will be no place of sanctuary left in our schools, businesses, places of recreation or houses of worship. For those who eschew guns as well as those who embrace their rights as responsible gun owners, I implore all of us to get together and work for sensible laws such as those promoted by Everytown for Gun Safety: https://everytown.org/ .
May God comfort all those who have lost loved ones in this devastating event.
With blessings of healing and peace,
Rabbi Julie Hilton Danan Leyla Nakisbendi, PCS President
Former PCS Rabbi Julie Hilton Danan shares her thoughts (and some original photos) and invites your comments.