03 May 2019
Six months ago, after the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue, I wrote to you about the heartache we felt and the questions we faced as a community. In the wake of the shooting at the Chabad of Poway, I am writing to you once again to process a tragedy.
Though it was clear hate was gaining traction in our country, the attack in Pittsburgh came as a true shock. This time, however, my shock was replaced by a sense of horror that this could all be happening again and the feeling that we must brace for the next time.
Without question, with the growth of violent, anti-Semitic acts in America, we must protect ourselves from the outside forces that seek to do us harm. We have to strengthen security and take proactive measures to ensure that our synagogues and institutions are safe. We did not ask for this, but our world today demands it.
In this same vein, we must also combat anti-Semitism wherever we see it. Anti-Semitism knows no boundaries. We cannot simply oppose anti-Semitism when perpetrated by those with whom we disagree. Instead, we must put a stop to the encroaching normalization of anti-Semitism and hate of any kind—even if it means condemning the words and actions of those who we deem as being on “our side.” In fact, I believe that it is particularly incumbent upon us to condemn anti-Semitism when it is expressed by people with whom we might otherwise agree.
But we cannot stop there. We cannot define our community by our collective need to fight anti-Semitism. Jewish life cannot just be about building bunkers. Even as we remain vigilant against hate, we must also remain steadfast in our pursuit of a vibrant Jewish future.
The strength of the Jewish people stems from our ability to live boldly no matter the context. We find meaning not in opposing our detractors but in serving others, and pursuing the essential work of building joyful Jewish life and strong communities.
This task is not new. As Jews, we know what it means to reach for a better tomorrow. Inherent in our tradition is a call to repair what is broken, to fight for justice, to demonstrate kindness, to live by our highest ideals, and to learn about our past so that it may inform our future. For millennia, we have shown the world what it looks like to work towards a shared vision. We have been, as Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks describes, “the voice of hope in the discourse of humankind.”
Now is the time to amplify our voice.
As I shared Monday night at two gatherings hosted in response to the Poway shooting, we can and must double down on our efforts to strengthen Jewish life and the Jewish community. Now is the time to ensure that Jews of all backgrounds and life stages have the chance to learn and grow. Now is the time to take care of those in need and spread the values of dignity and respect. Now is the time to build on our legacy of impact and show the world what it means to be Jewish today.
I learned that as part of Saturday’s Shabbat service, Chabad of Poway’s Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein was preparing to speak about the prophecy of Isaiah and the promise of better days to come. The idea stands in contrast to this past week, one that required us to rebuke anti-Semitism even as we marked Yom HaShoah. And yet, I have no doubt that better days do indeed lie ahead. To paraphrase what Rabbi Goldstein has said since the shooting, we win by making the world a better place, by helping one more person, by engaging even more seriously in our work as a community.
We must never forget that our future is ours to protect, ours to dream, and ours to build. I look forward to forging ahead alongside all of you as together we usher in a brighter tomorrow.