As we were engaged in our own Shabbat worship – a typically joyous morning filled with song and prayer, laughter and learning – a man with hate in his heart entered Tree of Life congregation in Pittsburgh, killing eleven and wounding several police officers.

I was unaware until I got home and received a phone message from our friend Ty Rashid – calling, I assume, from his new home in Puerto Rico – expressing his condolences and his solidarity with us.

The details are available in all of the news sources.  Suffice it to say, this was a calculated, deliberate act of anti-Semitism perpetrated by a man long upset with “Jews.” Among other things, he wrote of his anger with HIAS and its work in settling refugees and immigrants.  All of this played out, of course, against a backdrop of nativism, anger and hatred that has been encouraged over the past couple of years.

What can we do?

First, we pray.  We pray for the souls of those murdered and we pray for their families.  We pray for the brave officers who offered themselves in protection of our community and, especially, for those who were injured and for their families.  We pray for the sorrow and the pain and the recovery of the Jewish community of Pittsburgh, and of Tree of Life in particular.

Second, we act.

There will be a vigil downtown tonight.  I am unable to attend, but here are the details.  Go and stand in solidarity with our community in memory of those who were killed and in protest against the horrible hatred and the terrible violence that is manifest in our country.  Candlelight Vigil at Federal Plaza for the Victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue | Sunday, 5:30-7:30 pm | 219 S. Dearborn.

In the meantime, together with the Jewish community of Chicago HIAS already had planned a “Jews For Refugees Assembly” today.  Susan and I plan to attend and we invite you to change your plans to join us there. Info & registration can be found @ The program will address both learning and action.
Jews for Refugees Assembly
2:00   Speaker program
3:00   Information & Action Fair
Anshe Emet Synagogue
3751 N. Broadway, Chicago

When we gather next Friday night we will, of course, take time to remember those killed and wounded and to offer our prayers together. In the meantime, we’ll mourn our losses and strengthen our resolve to bring our country back to a place in which civil discourse reigns and violence is not tolerated.