LOS ANGELES: Eleven Jews are dead because an anti-semite murdered them. The killer walked into the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and shot worshipers in cold blood. The shooter, who yelled “All Jews must die” was taken into custody after his bloody rampage. Many people with noble intentions had no idea how to react. Comprehending the incomprehensible is never easy. Others responded with prayers of love and peace.
Thousands of Christians showed solidarity with their Jewish brothers and sisters.
In a truly beautiful display, the Pittsburgh Steelers altered their team logo to show an Israeli Star of David. Several Steelers players past and present expressed love for people they have never met practicing a religion they have never practiced (Despite Jewish sounding names, Juju Smith-Schuster and Ben Roethlisberger are not Jewish).
Some chose to exploit the tragedy for cheap political points by pushing policies before bodies had even gone cold. Those who blame President Trump for everything should know that the shooter hated the president as well as Jews. His daughter Ivanka is Jewish. His daughter-in-law Lara is Jewish. A majority of his grandchildren are Jewish.
There is plenty of time for policy arguments, but there is no time like the present for Jews to engage in the ultimate act of defiance. A man shot up the Tree of LIfe synagogue. There is only one way for Jews to respond.
Go to synagogue.
One does not have to be religious or even Jewish to attend a synagogue. There is more to a synagogue than religion. Like any other place of worship, a synagogue is about being part of a community. God is everywhere, but his people congregate in his temples. Attending a synagogue is a great way of making lifelong friends. It is also a good place to find answers to some very heart-wrenching questions.
Rabbis are trained in providing spiritual guidance. They would not pretend to know everything, but they do have significant expertise in answering questions involving ethical dilemmas.
Pray for the dead
One important prayer is the Mourners Kaddish, the prayer for the deceased. For this prayer to be said, 10 attendees must be in the synagogue (Orthodox Judaism requires 10 men at least age 13, while other denominations have less stringent rules). Without this minion (a group of 10), the Mourners Kaddish cannot be said. Attending synagogue allows mourners to say the prayer that is so vital to their healing. Those unfamiliar with the ritual only need to stand up and say “Amen.”
Because there are different levels of Judaism, there are different synagogues for each branch.
In Los Angeles, the Sephardic Temple and Nessah cater to the city’s very large Persian Jewish community. More than one synagogue remains a place for gay and lesbian Jews to worship. Hillel Houses are geared toward Jewish college students. On the other end of the spectrum is Chabad. Inspired by the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Schneerson, Chabad centers are all across the globe.
Every Jew is beloved, regardless of the level of religiosity
A great Modern Orthodox synagogue is Pico Shul, led by Rabbi Yonah Bookstein. Those wanting something more religious than reform but less religious than orthodox can split the difference and choose a conservative synagogue (In Judaism, the conservatives are the equivalent of the centrists). Sinai Temple is led by world-renowned Rabbi David Wolpe.
Not every city is Los Angeles. Some areas of America have so few Jews that synagogues are hundreds of miles away. Luckily, Christians and Muslims can show they care in the exact same way. They can visit their local church or mosque to pray for their Jewish brothers and sisters.
Show Up and Pray – this is what we do
Go to church. To the mosque. Go to a synagogue. Show up. You do not need to know all the prayers or even the melodies. A simple hug is the best way to turn a stranger into a friend. Walk in the building, and see complete strangers want to make you feel like part of their community.
By attending synagogue, the message is loud and clear. Jews are not going anywhere. We are here to stay. We will never be denied the right to practice our religious faith in our building of choice.
Thousands of people showed up for a nighttime vigil at the Tree of Life Synagogue.
As days, weeks and months pass, pray that people keep showing up. To every person who does show up, their act of love is more powerful and meaningful than they will ever know.