Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha Synagogue memorial

A memorial outside the Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha Synagogue in Pittsburgh following the mass shooting on Oct. 27, 2018 that left 11 Jewish worshippers dead.

In synagogues across the nation this weekend, Jews will gather to remember the 11 Jewish worshippers who were shot and killed during Shabbat-morning services one year ago, on Oct. 27, 2018, at the Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

From their pulpits, rabbis are geared to offer words of comfort and reflection. To give them some guidance, the American Jewish Committee created a handbook called “Sinat Chinam: A Resource Guide for Rabbis and Others on Anti-Semitism.” The words sinat chinam are translated as baseless hatred, referring to hatred between Jews.

In choosing it for the title, AJC is using applying to hate of all kinds: anti-Semitism, xenophobia, racism—all baseless and without cause.

The 60-page booklet contains biographies of the victims; worship resources, including prayers and recitations written after the Pittsburgh shooting; biblical quotes; sources on hatred, anti-Semitism and reconciliation; sample sermons; and more.

It can be helpful for congregational rabbis to have resources that stimulate their thinking as they prepare their programming materials and sermons,” says Rabbi Noam Marans, American Jewish Committee’s director of interreligious and intergroup relations, who crafted two of the booklets’ prayers and other writings. “Given the enormity of this event—truly unprecedented in its horrific nature in American Jewish history—it’s important to provide as much assistance as rabbis and other prepare for the first anniversary.”

Part of that anniversary commemoration includes #ShowUpforShabbat, an AJC initiative to bring the Jewish community and others together in solidarity. The first such program was held just a week after the Pittsburgh massacre, and brought together Jews and people of other faiths to stand up to hatred and anti-Semitism. This year, hundreds of synagogues are opening their services once again and encouraging people to come in and reinforce their objection to hate in all its forms.

“The American Jewish community is still processing this event and will be for decades to come,” says Marans. “What I do know is that Jewish people and fellow travelers of all faiths and no faiths are going to need to be together in solidarity in the coming days.”

All of this activity comes just days after the AJC released a report showing that 88 percent of Jews believe anti-Semitism is a problem.

“When 11 Jews are murdered in prayers, followed six months later by one Jew being murdered [Chabad of Poway, Calif.] and others not because a gun jammed, these are earth-shattering events that cannot be ignored. The survey reflects the insecurity that Jews are feeling, and we are still in the middle of this,” Marans says, calling out a series of violent attacks in Brooklyn, N.Y., recently on people who are visibly Jewish.

The booklet also contains statistics on anti-Semitic incidents and a political call to action. It asks people to reach out to their congressional representatives and pass pending legislation to combat hate, specifically the National Opposition to Hate, Assaults and Threats to Equality Act, which AJC helped draft and was introduced by Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas) earlier this year in the U.S. House of Representatives. A companion bill was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

However, individuals mark this solemn anniversary, Marans says what’s most important to remember are the 11 shul-goers who were killed, as well as their loved ones and the Jewish community of Pittsburgh, emphasizing “that must be uppermost in our minds.” JN

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