After the Poway Shooting
May 2, 2019
A friend of mine is the rabbi of a Jewish senior living community near San Diego. When word spread of the shooting at the synagogue in Poway, not far away, she gathered the elderly members to share their thoughts, voice support, and pray together. It was in the midst of this gathering that the worst of all news arrived – the woman who died in the shooting was the daughter of one of the residents. My friend spent the next several hours pastoring to this octogenarian and the rest of the family as they dealt with this tragic, horrific loss.
How is it that this is the second mass shooting at a synagogue in only six months? How is it that it is the third attack on people praying at houses of worship in only six weeks? With the shooting at Chabad of Poway coming in the same week as Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, these questions become even more poignant. We know that part of Nazi ideology was a deep-seated hatred of Jews because of their religion. The dark night of the Shoah should be a terrifying reminder of what can happen when senseless hatred of others is allowed to permeate society.
So how do we combat this? What should we do? I was struck by one response of the rabbi of Chabad of Poway, Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein. He requested that everyone in the Jewish community “do something positive” in expressing their Jewish identity: go to services, do mitzvahs, whatever we can do. He explained, “let them see that nothing will take us down, let them see that this is not going to deter us; it’s not going to scare us” from being Jewish in American today.
We recognize that, unlike during the Holocaust, the rise in anti-Semitic acts is not at the hands of government action. And, unlike during the Holocaust, after these horrific attacks we have seen people of goodwill reaching out in support across lines of faith. We are fortunate to live in a time and place where our response can be increased expression of Jewish identity.
Whether or not we enact Rabbi Goldstein’s advice (and our Celebration of Music service this Friday night at Temple Beth El would be a great service to attend!), we hope that increased expressions of identity can be more and more accepted in our society. The more we know one another, the less we hate one another, the better our world will become.