25 Heshvan 5779 – Chayei Sara

Why should the shooting in Pittsburgh matter to me?

What happens to Jews around the world affects Jews everywhere. The incident that took place last Saturday, as Jews gathered inside the Tree of Life Synagogue for a baby naming ceremony, was not just an attack against a specific Jew or group of Jews. Rather, it was an assault against the entire Jewish nation.

It was also the deadliest attack against the Jewish community in US history.

In Australia and in other parts of the world the attack has been reported as a gun crime but it is much more than that. It is the embodiment of the world’s oldest hatred: anti-semitism. This fact must be recognised by our world’s leaders first and foremost and then by everyone else. Americans and other nations of the world must stop blaming others as to the reasons, causes or justifications behind this attack and rather look into the mirror. Have they done enough to eradicate this ancient form and the many other faces of hatred?

When disasters or tragedies take place anywhere in the world they should always move us wherever we are. Woe to us if our hearts can harden to the point that we fail to shed a tear or say a prayer when learning of another person’s suffering. Further, our attendance at communal services, prayers and vigils send a strong message to the victims and their families that we are united with them in their pain, that their pain is our pain. And it is this acknowledgement that makes us more human.

We must not live in fear, nor must we become complacent with our fortunes. Here in Sydney, we live relatively comfortable and safe lives. We are also fortunate to have the CSG who do a wonderful job protecting our Shules and communal institutions. Yet we must always remain vigilant and look out for our safety and the safety of others.

The shooter tried to instil fear within Jewish communities worldwide. Let’s rally together in Shules this weekend to give honour to the victims and their families and to demonstrate that we will not be intimidated by hate. Am Yisroel Chai!

Wishing you all a Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Yossi and Chana Raizel Friedman

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