Reflections on Our Response to the Shootings in Pittsburgh, shared by Pamela Rothstein at the Falmouth Vigil this November

Today we stand together as a community. A sacred community, made sacred by our neighborly presence.

However, we also stand together after another hate crime. This Saturday it was Jews. Last week, two African-Americans in Kentucky. Transgender. Muslim. Sikh. The list, sadly, goes on.

For us in the Jewish community, the shooting in Pittsburgh still resonates. We mourn. We are outraged. We console one another. We embrace the outreach from the larger community. We listen…for words of consolation.

This is not the first anti-Semitic act in our country. But while fatal attacks have occurred in the past, this one comes within a fresh context -- the well-documented rise of anti-Semitic and hate crimes in our country.

For the past decade, we charted the killings and hate speech against Jews abroad. In places like France. Or Hungary.

This killing in our own country hits us hard. Profoundly.

We take time to mourn and to grieve. But we also face explaining to the next generation what is happening. The very next day, we opened our doors to children and adults, as did the Tree of Life congregation on Saturday.

What does this have to do with you? Everything.

How does this effect our Falmouth and Cape community?

I suggest this response: Dig deep to understand what it feels like to be a Jew in this country today, to be Transgender, to be a person of color, to be anyone targeted by hate speech and by hateful action, including murder.

Jewish difference is sometimes (but not always) veiled by our looks and by our integration in society.

But behind the similarities is a difference, and that difference lies in our ever-present duality of awareness – of our history of persecution and of our hope for a life of freedom, promise, and acceptance in this country. This is what our forebears carried here as immigrants, and it is the legacy we inherit. This is what we will be thinking about at the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht next Friday.

You are familiar with words found in Torah – the Jewish Bible: You shall love the stranger as yourself.

This is audacious love – a love that pushes us out of our comfort zone. But it is what is so necessary. Jewish prayer, texts, and ritual remind us daily that we were once strangers in Egypt and thus have a direct responsibility to welcome and love the stranger.

What does such neighborly love look like? Now is a good time to consider this question…in our own community.

Because it is a love and a connection that can be achieved meaningfully and efficiently.

Send a text or email, call or sit down with a Jew, a person connected to a Jew, a Jewish community. Extend your hand. Give a hug. Whether through silence, words, or action, express your sadness or outrage, offer support and caring, recognize that our lives have been changed by this and by each and every assault of us directly, and on other communities. This is a crucial time to come together to express our caring for the Pittsburgh community and for each other.

When hate crimes are committed anywhere in this country, connect and act locally.

Stand allied with every community that faces senseless hatred and violence.

Contact an individual or similar community locally.

Because what is happening in our country affects us all. And it will take our engagement locally to imprint this community with justice and respect.

As we grieve, let us heal by recommitting to build a vibrant community that embraces diversity rather than demonizes it, that sows seeds of justice and understanding rather than seeds of fear and hatred.

Peace is not the absence of war but rather the actualization of love and the ability to deal with differences.

Let us make our own community one of peace, one of increasing mutual understanding and support.  Our words and deeds matter. Let us truly know and support each other.