Following Saturday’s deadly shooting at Chabad of Poway in California, Reform Jewish clergy, activists, and other community leaders have issued statements, shared words of comfort, appeared on the news, and talked about the way forward after yet another gun-related tragedy of anti-Semitic origin.
“At the beginning of Passover during seder, Jewish communities all over the world opened their doors hoping to find Elijah announcing a time of redemption with an end to hate and injustice. How tragic to close our festival of freedom with yet another brutal attack reminding us that redemption is not near at hand.
The URJ represents the largest Jewish movement in North America, representing more than 900 synagogues in the United States and Canada. Several other Reform institutions issued their own statements, as well, all echoing similar sentiments and solidarity:
- From Reform youth: NFTY – The Reform Jewish Youth Movement, issued a statement from the organization’s current and incoming social action vice pesidents, who said, in part, “Our thoughts and prayers are not enough to make our world safer for all of its inhabitants. In order to end gun violence, we must act.” Read NFTY’s full statement.
- From the Reform seminary: Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion's statement says that the shooting “demonstrates yet again that anti-Semitism in America is a growing threat. The murderous attacks on religious minorities in New Zealand and Sri Lanka illustrate the growing assault of nationalistic and religious extremism.” Read HUC-JIR’s full statement.
- From Reform rabbis: The Central Conference of American Rabbis said, “Reform rabbis join in prayer for the realization of the Prophet Isaiah’s vision: ‘Violence shall no longer be heard in your land, nor devastation and destruction within your borders’ (Isaiah 60:18).” Read the CCAR’s full statement.
Across the continent, individual clergy have made television and radio appearances and written about the tragedy, as well, sharing their devastation and frustration - and thoughts about what comes next, both for the Jewish community and beyond, when it comes to gun violence driven by hatred and bigotry.
On Poway’s Jewish community…
Reform Rabbi David Castiglione, who leads congregation Temple Adat Shalom just a few miles from Chabad of Poway, spoke to NPR’s David Greene about the attack and how it’s impacted the local Jewish community. Referencing the way they came together after fall 2018’s Pittsburgh shooting, he says:
“It’s certainly bringing the community together, stronger than even before...Violence has now become the new norm.”
On how this impacts all people of faith…
“I can’t explain this outrage or this rise in hate, but what I do know is that leaders of faith and national leaders, as well, come together and decry this kind of hate because we know that attacks against Jews are attacks against Christians, as well. Similarly, attacks against people of faith are attacks against all of humanity.”
On synagogue security…
Rabbi Josh Stanton of East End Temple in New York City also appeared on CNN, where he discussed the complexity of clergy needing to become skilled in safety and security issues:
“Now we have to become experts in security. As much as I respect security professionals, I did not become a rabbi to become an expert in security [but] my calling now includes an additional point of expertise.”
On what we can do...
Rabbi Yael Splansky of Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto, Ontario, shared a blog post on her congregation's website that lists 10 ways to respond to hatred with activism, compassion, and love. Though many of the action items on her list are unique to events occuring within her community, it may inspire you to seek out similar events in your own area or to take meaningful action in other ways. She ends with Rabbi Ari Hart's "Attention White Supremacists" for inspiration and motivation.
On what comes next…
“Acts of violence, hatred and terror affect us all, and they also happen in a particular place and time. Chabad of Poway lost a member of their community over the weekend. Their sacred space was defiled with a centuries-old hatred newly reinvigorated. The Jewish community mourns with Chabad, and together we will rise. Am Yisrael Chai.”
Rabbi Pesner also shares four things you can do right now to make real change in the next five minutes.