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A Jewish prayer after Pittsburgh: ‘Our greatest fears realized’

A person pauses in front of Stars of David with the names of those killed in a deadly shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Monday.
A person pauses in front of Stars of David with the names of those killed in a deadly shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Monday. AP

Editor’s note: Adapted from a prayer published on the Stan Greenspon Center of Queens University of Charlotte website Saturday afternoon immediately following the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh:

This morning in Pittsburgh, on Shabbat (our Sabbath), our greatest fears became a reality when a shooter armed with an AR-15 entered the synagogue of the Tree of Life congregation as three services were simultaneously in progress, including a bris welcoming an 8-day-old child into the covenant; a bris so important it could happen even on Shabbat.

Our greatest fears realized.

Fears so terrorizing that we, as Jews, often never utter them out loud, though we all think and feel them in our hearts and souls.

“What if during our prayers, during our simchas (our celebrations), during our Sabbath morning Torah study …”

As news media began to reveal the horror of our greatest fears, a wave of nausea entered our bodies. Tears streamed down our faces. A cry came forth from our souls like the wail of a shofar (a ram’s horn) calling to the world: “Make this hatred stop!”

The cruel and painful irony of it all. As Jews in sanctuaries across our globe read this morning and heard of the open doors that Abraham and Sarah had on all four sides of their tent, a life-denying and God-denying White Supremacist walked through the opens doors of Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue.

In Abraham and Sarah’s case, the guests brought blessings.

In Pittsburgh, a hateful attacker brought bullets.

Our greatest fears realized.

Now, we, as a Jewish people, and along with our fellow American citizens and citizens of the world, are challenged, yet again, to not allow such horror to close our doors.

Let all of us face this challenge by committing to opening doors and taking this vow:

to counter race supremacy with a commitment to equality for all

to counter hate with random and continuous acts of love

to counter religious extremism with pluralism

to respond to ignorance with wisdom

to counter violence with peace.

We send our condolences to the community of Pittsburgh and especially its Jewish community, and its Tree of Life synagogue, specifically. We weep for you and with you and will work tirelessly to counter the hate that kills people and threatens democracy.

May the memories of those who died be a blessing.

May that blessing be expressed through the actions we take in honor of their lives.

May we never allow our worst fears — both spoken and unspoken — to conquer our faith, courage, and love.

Judy Schindler is Director of the Stan Greenspon Center for Peace and Social Justice at Queens University of Charlotte and Rabbi Emerita of Temple Beth El.
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