In Response to the Synagogue Shooting in Poway

Dearest Temple Beth El members and Friends,

Again, a Shabbat morning was violated by gunshots at a synagogue service. Our sense of security – sureness in the haven of a Sanctuary where the Ner Tamid glows and the Holy Ark presides – has been pierced by bullets, and the ground of American religious safety and freedom is shaking beneath our feet. Each of us, undoubtedly, feels like we, ourselves, has been violated, to paraphrase the words of the Haggadah, so recently read at our family tables.

And yes, it is true that this occurred as we were closing Passover. Our festival of liberation is anything but. Our departure from oppression and our march to freedom were halted, and we are still waiting to dance with the timbrels and sing our song of redemption on the far shores of the sea. But, yes, we will dance and sing, only it will be with worried and suspicious hearts, for now.

For now… I am relieved that following the shooting last Fall at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, our Temple Beth El leaders initiated a Security Task Force which has been working speedily and comprehensively to design and implement steps towards a strong security plan for our Temple and our community. At our most recent Board and Finance Committee meetings, implementing many of those steps was advanced, and we should be seeing the vital results of that effort as we go forward.

And, presently, you should know that our leadership has been in communication with the Harbor Division of the LAPD since this morning, discussing increasing their presence at and around the Temple, this Sunday, and in the foreseeable future. We are very sensitive to the feelings and needs of our members – not only because the Poway shooting was so near – but because caring for one another is our most sacred purpose. Tomorrow morning at Religious School, as every Sunday, but especially tomorrow morning, we will have additional persons by the door and around the building, to insure the safety of our community. If you would like to assist, kindly call me, Racheli Morris, Cantor Davidson or Carrie Hernandez, even this evening.

And finally, a word about Chabad. Oddly, that this shooting occurred at a Chabad center adds a dimension to the meaning and experience of this tragedy. Ironically, while Chabad is most identified with its superb achievements in outreach – keiruv – reaching out to the disconnected Jew, Chabad also is, among American Jewish movements, the least connected institutionally with other congregations. Thus, at this time when caring and connection is most vital, Chabad is somewhat vulnerably alone. Admittedly, in many if not most communities, Chabad and other congregations do not collaborate as much as Reform and Conservative congregations might commonly do. Today, that must change. Today, we must do the keiruv, and reach out and connect. Today, any synagogue is every synagogue.

Friends, only yesterday we were eating matzah, the bread of affliction. And a week ago, we ate it with the maror, the bitter herbs. It seems like that taste is again upon our tongue, and yes it is. Yet with arms connected and hearts embraced, we will leave behind one more Egypt, and bring security one to another.

With Shalom,
Rabbi Douglas Kohn
rabbikohn@bethelsp.org