This last Shabbat we were shocked, but perhaps not surprised, by the events that transpired at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, TX. There, hostages were taken during an 11-hour standoff. Thankfully all of the hostages, including Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker made it out alive. For which we are eternally grateful.
Tonight congregations across the country, and across the world will be observing a Shabbat of Solidarity. Many have chosen and are choosing to meet in person to demonstrate that we will not cower in fear. At the Reform Temple of Rockland, we feel the same.
Following the tragic shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in October of 2018, where eleven Jews were assassinated, we gathered as a community in our sanctuary the following Shabbat. Along with members and the clergy of Congregation Sons of Israel and with so many partners in the community, we worshiped in solidarity and grief.
Since that time, we have worked with local law enforcement to protect you to the best of our abilities. We have upgraded our security systems, procedures, our facility, and changed our security providers. It has been a tremendous labor of love, and one that we felt necessary given the alarmingly rising rates of antisemitic attacks in the world.
However, tonight is different not because antisemitism has changed, but because of the pandemic. Tonight we will be praying in solidarity, but we will be doing it from our own homes due to the high rates of covid in the area. Though the numbers are going down in Rockland and in New York, we feel it is not yet time for us to resume gathering together in person.
In this week’s Torah portion, Yitro, Moses ascends Mt. Sinai to receive the 10 Commandments. The people wanted Moses to go on their behalf as they stood near the mountain both out of awe and fear. But they did not run. Instead they waited. They waited to hear the enduring message of our tradition from Moses. They stood together at Sinai. So too tonight, we stand together, albeit virtually, knowing that fear will not keep us away. We are not strong because we have been persecuted as Jews. We are strong because we are Jews. And we will continue to gather, celebrate, observe, live and breathe our tradition no matter what others may try to do to us.
With this in mind, we invite you to join us virtually tonight for a Shabbat of Comfort and Solidarity as we sing the melodies of our people, hear the words chanted from the Torah, and symbolically together at Sinai ready to hear and ready to do.
Rabbi Benjamin A. Sharff