The past few years have shown the biggest increase in anti-Semitic acts in many of our lifetimes. Whether you’re looking at the statistics published by the ADL, or merely thinking back over all that has happened — the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, the cemetery desecrations, the bomb threats — we are all deeply aware that these are difficult times to be part of the Jewish community. And in our own congregation, as we’ve chosen to hire police officers for every Shabbat service or public event, as we raise money to increase safety and security, especially in our school building, we see very clearly just how this has impacted us.
Yet, if you’ll forgive me for always trying to find a light even in the darkest times, I also want to point out how each moment of fear and anti-Semitism has been met with solidarity and support from the interfaith community. Some of Rabbi Michael’s and my dearest friends are Christian clergy whom he met when they came to clean up Chesed Shel Emeth, and have since spoken from our bimah and joined us for prayer and learning. After the shooting in Pittsburgh, our sanctuary was filled with clergy and worshippers from all religious backgrounds who came to stand and pray with us so that we didn’t feel afraid. Each time the world seems against us, we find that our friends and neighbors have shown us their love and support.
Several weeks ago, we received the following letter that I wanted to share with you in full:
Dear Rabbi Amy and Rabbi Michael,
I had the privilege and pleasure of worshipping with you at Shabbat services last Friday evening with the group from First Presbyterian Church of Kirkwood. My daughter Julia is in the confirmation class (she is the one who asked about the words on the curtain after the service), and my son, Daniel, came along as well. We all enjoyed and were blessed by the experience. This was my first time worshipping at a synagogue, and I was completely surprised at how emotional it was for me personally.
Hearing the ancient words sung so beautifully moved me to tears.
After the service, my daughter asked me why there was a uniformed police officer by the door. I explained that, sadly, people of the Jewish faith still face violence and persecution. My own grandparents saw this with their own eyes in Holland, during the war. They were active in the Dutch Resistance, and my grandfather (a police officer himself) personally helped some of his Jewish neighbors escape the Holocaust. I thought a lot about my grandparents and their neighbors, those who were saved and the many who were not, as we worshipped with you.
I saw on your website that contributions can be made to help pay for security. My family decided to make a donation to that fund as a way to follow my grandparents’ example and to return the hand of friendship you so warmly extended to us.
Jeanne M. Martin
I have reread her letter countless times, and it never fails to bring me to tears. To know that perfect strangers, one generation after the next, have stepped up to help the Jewish community is a blessing for which I am eternally grateful. During our upcoming Holocaust Education Week and on Yom HaShoah, as we look back at an entire generation whose lives were taken in the Holocaust, we remember too those who stood up to hatred, who reached out when so many others turned away. We cannot be blind to anti-Semitism, and we would be foolish to not feel wary and afraid. Yet let us remember to still open our synagogue and our hearts to all who would stand with us; in each generation, there are heroes among us.
Temple Israel, in partnership with the Holocaust Museum & Learning Center, has organized this week-long series of events to provide educational, spiritual, and reflective opportunities for the entire St. Louis community in remembrance of the Holocaust. Please join us to pray, to learn, and to never forget with the St. Louis community.
Details at: www.ti-stl.org/HEW