This morning, during a baby naming service at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, a man walked in and while shouting “all Jews must die” began shooting. News reports differ on how many died, but it is certain that eight* people are dead and others wounded.
I am shaken to my core. I learned the news as I walked out of shul after leading my own Shabbat morning service.
Words escape me this afternoon, so I will quote my colleague Jonathan Freirich, who wrote “Comfort, heal, mourn, pray, and act. We must be the agents of change for a better world.”
Synagogues often give themselves aspirational names. Mine, Kol HaNeshama, is from the last line of Psalm 150, “let every living thing praise God.” The synagogue that was attacked is named Tree of Life. Today, it was visited by hatred and death, by someone who quite literally wanted to hack down the tree of life.
The president is wrong. We cannot become a nation in which people at prayer are only safe when they are protected by armed guards. While many synagogues will indeed protect themselves from copy-cat killers by hiring armed security guards, that cannot be the final answer.
I refuse to allow America to be a place where I am safe only if someone with a gun is standing at my door to stop a murderer. We are better than that. We deserve better than that.
We cannot permit hatred to stop us in our pursuit of a society in which every living thing can praise God in safety, where hatred is not acceptable, where guns are no longer used as weapons against one another.
Baruch Dayan HaEmet. May the souls of those killed be united with the Holy One of Blessing. May those who were wounded be healed in both body and mind. May those who lost family and friends be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.
*My original post reported that four people were killed, but that number was updated to 8 several hours later, and then to 11.