The New Shul

Parshat Hayei Sarah

The following words were offered by Rabbi Wasserman this past Tuesday evening at a community-wide vigil in response to the synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh:

Before Robert Bowers murdered our brothers and sisters in Pittsburgh, he told the world, in an online post, that he intended to kill Jews because we stand up for the stranger. Through the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society and other Jewish agencies, we support and care for refugees. We help the marginal and vulnerable to make America their home. It was for that reason that Bowers wanted Jews to die.

If we must be hated by people like him, it is comforting at least to know that we are hated for a reason that we can be proud of. The Torah tells us that we have a special obligation to care for the stranger because we know what it means to be strangers, because we were strangers in the land of Egypt. If we are known to the world – even to those who wish to harm us – by our compassion toward the vulnerable, then, even amidst our pain, anger and grief this week, we have the right to feel a certain pride.

This week, we know the heart of the stranger with a depth and agony that we have not known for a long time. We have relearned, in a devastating way, what it feels like to be deeply vulnerable. How should we respond? I believe that our response must be to re-embrace what the Torah taught us thousands of years ago. We know what it means to be strangers. Therefore we must care for the stranger. We must fight back against those who hate by defending the rights and dignity of all outsiders, all those who are vulnerable.

That is a matter of principle for us. But it is also a matter of self-defense – because, if history teaches us anything, it is that we Jews are only as secure as the most vulnerable members of society. People who target refugees, who lash out at racial and ethnic minorities – at anyone who is different, who is other – will eventually target us as well. If we had forgotten that lesson, we have relearned it now. In standing up for the most vulnerable, we not only fulfill a sacred mandate, but we protect our own place in this country, because we will never be truly secure here until everyone is secure. We must stand up to hatred – together with our friends and allies across this valley and across this nation whose support means so much to us – because that is what our faith demands of us. That is what makes us worthy of our sacred heritage. But we must stand up to hatred, also, because, only in a nation that is committed to knowing the heart of the stranger, to recognizing the dignity of every human being, can we Jews ever hope to be truly at home.

Harofeh lish’vurei leiv um’habeish l’atzvotam
May God heal the broken-hearted, and bind up their wounds.

  • The New Shul’s Shabbat services are on Friday evenings from 6 to 7 pm, and on Saturday mornings from 9 am to 12 noon. This Shabbat, November 3, we will celebrate the upcoming marriage of Stacey Platzman and Boris Bernstein. The kiddush-lunch will be sponsored by Debbie and Paul Platzman.
  • Childcare is available on Shabbat mornings from 10 am to 12 noon.
  • Minyanim during the week are on Sunday mornings at 9:30 am, and on Monday and Wednesday evenings at 7 pm.