On Friday nights, we walk past the police officer who stands outside the gates of our synagogue. The girls smile and wave at him as we enter for Shabbat services. The girls haven’t experienced Jewish life without police presence. There are officers who guard their Jewish Day School during the week and officers who greet them as they enter the Jewish Community Center. It is part of life. They don’t question it, it just is, because we are Jews.
I worry, but I refuse to stop doing what we do and being who we are.
It was Shabbat on Oct. 27, so I didn’t look at the news. I still didn’t know what had happened when I dropped my eldest daughter off at another congregation for her friend’s bat mitzvah. I wasn’t concerned when I saw the police officer outside because that’s just how it is, just in case. Yet, in the back of my mind, I am prepared that if someone wants to do something bad, they will find a way.
The horrific, senseless tragedy that occurred at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh is haunting; I’m shaken. It could have been any of us, greeting our fellow congregants, catching up on the week as we prepare for prayer.
I was on a mountain in the mid-afternoon when I received the news through a message from a friend. I was alone; there was no one else around. It was silent and peaceful; the opposite of the environment miles and miles away. I sat there, shocked, wrought with emotion, mourning the innocent souls who lost their lives and for the families who now have to learn to live without them. I cried for their congregation, for their community, for our Jewish community, for all of us. I picked up 11 rocks and placed them next to each other. I said Kaddish.
And then, I started to ask G-d, “Why?” I stopped myself. In that week’s Torah portion, Vayeira, which was read the day of the shooting, G-d calls upon Abraham to test him again. Abraham doesn’t ask why he’s being tested, instead, he responds: “Hineni. Here I am.” He has complete faith and trust in G-d.
“Hineni. Here I am.” Here you are. Here we are.
The Jewish faith is a faith of action, and after this tragedy, we are being called to do something. What can we do and how can we prevent this from happening again?
We must overcome our feelings of helplessness and be like Abraham. Our voices have power and when we come together in our moral outrage, we have the strength to create change.
Your voice is your vote.
We can vote. We can vote to change the trajectory of our children’s future by electing leaders who will help us prevent tragedies like this from ever happening again. And maybe, our children will know a world where they can walk into their houses of worship without having to worry. JN
Rebecca Lammersen lives in Scottsdale and is a member of Temple Kol Ami. Her daughters go to Pardes Jewish Day School and she is the program coordinator for the single-parent program through the Bureau of Jewish Education.