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Congregation Brothers of Israel

L'dor Vador - From Generation to Generation since 1883 לדור ודור

11/1/18   

                                                             

                                                                   A Message From Rabbi Gaber

Last Sunday evening, November 4th nearly 700 people gathered as a community to take our next steps in the aftermath of the tragic Tree of Life synagogue attack.  The immense energy in the room and the willingness for some many people to gather and to begin pushing hate and Antisemitism from our community was incredible.  I offer my personal thanks to the clergy of many faiths, the community organizers and leaders who participated and facilitated groups.  For an update on the continuing work, please contact me or go to www.thepeacecenter.org for “Bucks Call to Action Against Antisemitism.”  Here are my edited remarks which helped to set the framework for the evening:

I learned as a small kid the old nursery ditty, sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.  And for a long time, I tried to absorb that and when I was picked on in school, I tried to ignore it.  But that ditty is just wrong.  Words matter.  Words can and do hurt but words can also heal and bring love into this world.  In the book of Proverbs, we learn – The tongue has the power of life and death.  And those who love it will eat of its fruit. (Proverbs 18:21)

On Saturday, October 27th, 11 people died because they chose to attend synagogue to pray.  The week before, a gunman allegedly went to a predominantly black church, found that it was locked so he went to a Krogers grocery store and killed two African Americans who chose to go grocery shopping and this past Friday night two women, a college student and a medical director were shot and killed at a yoga studio with five more wounded by an alleged gunmen who made misogynistic comments.  The commonality of these events and the continued vandalism and racist and antisemitic acts we are witnessing around our nation and in our Bucks County community are because words matter.  Words are hurting all of us in ways no one imagined.  Like many, I know that antisemitism and hate still existed but for a long time, it had been pushed under the surface and into the dark corners of this world.  No longer, words have allowed it to come back out.  It will take words followed by actions to push hate, bigotry and antisemitism back into those dark corners, so people can live their lives with love and compassion.

It begins with everyone in this room.  It begins with our civic leaders, with our faith leaders, and with our community leaders.  We, as leaders, have to model the behavior for others.  We have to speak kindly to one another and about one another.  As parents, we have to model behavior for our children.  Children learn from the adults around them.  And we ourselves have to monitor our own behavior.  

In the Jewish tradition on Yom Kippur, the day we seek forgiveness from God, we recite a list 10 times.  We recite Al Het Shechatunu lifanekha..   Forgive us God for we have sinned.  If you read that list closely, the majority of verses remind us of how we have gossiped about others, how we have misrepresented ourselves to others, how we have misled others and how we have spoken meanly about others.  At the end of the prayer, we ask God to forgive us, to pardon us and to grant us atonement.  God will do that, but it is up to us to adjust our behavior.  I ask everyone tonight, please speak kindly to each other and about each other.

Words matter.  Words are also used to create good in this world.  When God created the world, God did so by speaking it into existence.  And from those words flowed actions which help to better the world.  Tonight, we have gathered after a week of sadness and anger.  A week of funerals in Pittsburgh and an outpouring of love from most quarters of the world.  Tonight, we begin to take back our community.  Tonight, we remind the world that hate has no home here now or ever.  We do that by taking the next steps.

In a few moments, we ask that you select from one of five affinity groups and to join a discussion forum. The groups will be facilitated by community leaders and organizers who are involved in this important work every day.  You will begin the discussion and you will learn and share how you can do more than offer “thoughts and prayers”.  You can take action to make our community more loving and to push the minority of haters out of our community.

Here are the five groups:

Building Interfaith Relations Forum and discuss in smaller groups how you can enhance the relationships between people of different faiths. 

Reducing Gun Violence Forum and discuss ways to reduce gun violence and to reach out to our elected leadership to let them know that this is not only important to you but it is essential that we eliminate  gun violence.  

Community activism to end Antisemitism and Hate forum.  Words of love are needed but so are actions.  You are a vital part of that change in our community. 

Educate the community on Immigration policy Forum.  I can only say if it were not for an immigration policy that allowed my great grand parents into this country, my parents and grandparents may have perished in the Holocaust and I would never have been born.    All of us here are immigrants and descendants of immigrants to this country.  Jewish Tradition teaches us to take care of the stranger when they come to our house, Abraham showed hospitality to strangers, shouldn’t we?

Finally, Creating Acts of Loving Kindness Forum.  Many of us have been touched by the beautiful acts that others have shared this week.  Someone stopped by my synagogue with cookies to give us sustenance as we sat shiva for the 11 precious souls in Pittsburgh.  We can do more to share kindness in this community.  

Lets together take the next steps toward showing the world that hate has no home in Bucks county or in our country.  When the Israelites stood at the border of their Promised Land, they were given a choice.  Choose life or choose death.  Let us together choose life and through words and actions bring more compassion to our community and be an example to our children and to our children’s children.  So, we can demonstrate to our children and to their children that we can heal this world for the better.

I end with the word of Ari Mahler, the nurse, who cared for the gunman in Pittsburgh:

Love. That’s why I did it. Love as an action is more powerful than words, and love in the face of evil gives others hope. It demonstrates humanity.  It reaffirms why we’re all here.   The meaning of life is to give meaning to life, and love is the ultimate force that connects all living beings.  I could care less what Robert Bowers thinks, but you, the person reading this, love is the only message I wish instill in you.  If my actions mean anything, love means everything.  

 

Sun, November 18 2018 10 Kislev 5779