This morning I emerged from our sanctuary filled with joy and hope after celebrating another wonderful student becoming a bar mitzvah. During his d’var Torah, our student taught us the important lesson from Abraham that we should be kind to others, both our neighbor and the stranger. My elation was quickly diminished as our congregants began to approach me with looks of sadness and shock on their faces. They quietly whispered in my ear that there was an active shooter at a Synagogue in Pittsburgh. We now know that at least eleven people were killed and twelve were injured. I too am filled with sadness and despair, but I am not shocked.
I am not shocked because given the prevalence of gun violence in our country today, it was only a matter of time before someone entered a synagogue. We read with horrific regularity about shootings at schools and mosques, and today we add a Jewish synagogue to that list. None of us, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, young or old, white, black or brown is immune to the epidemic of gun violence. We all join together in prayer for those who were killed or injured, and their families.
In our Torah, when Aaron’s sons are killed he does not know what to do. We witness a paralyzed father, shocked and saddened by tragedy. He does not offer us any words of wisdom or guidance, only silence. The silence of a father praying and remembering his sons. The silence of a father who knows that in one quick moment his life is forever changed; he is now a survivor.
Unlike Aaron, we can only be silent for so long when a preventable tragedy afflicts our community. Our politicians will undoubtedly offer their prayers when what we need is their action. By refusing to enact common-sense gun violence prevention measures, their silence and inaction does nothing to prevent more mass shootings. I am proud to say that our community is working with CONECT to hold gun manufactures responsible for their tools of destruction and to work to with our politicians to enact systematic change to save lives.
Today we pray – we pray for comfort for these families, we pray for comfort for the community of Tree of Life, and we pray for everyone who has fallen victim to gun violence. We pray for lives cut short for no reason, and most importantly we pray for the courage to act.
God, God of all generations, give us the courage to partner with you to create a world filled with Shalom, the courage to elect leaders who will protect the people they serve, and the courage to speak up loudly in the face of hatred. May we one day witness a world where all people display kindness to both neighbor and stranger.
As we work for change, the staff and leadership of CMI are always considering the safety of the community and everyone who enters our building. We have long had a comprehensive security plan that includes security cameras, a security system, and a process to lock our doors other than short periods of entry and egress. We also have a close working relationship with the Hamden PD and FBI who advise us annually on our building’s physical measures and our processes. They will always advise us if they believe that there is a threat to our community. I have been in touch with the Hamden PD and they immediately sent extra squad cars to the synagogues this morning and will continue to do so throughout the weekend. Tomorrow during religious school, as is our policy, our doors are only open from 9-10am and someone is always at the doors when they are unlocked. If you need to get into the building at others times, please ring the bell. If you ever feel that something is out of place, please contact a professional team member immediately.
L’shalom, to peace,
Rabbi Brian Immerman