Dear Community, 

I am devastated and broken hearted. There are no words to make things better, no words to take away the horror

I grieve, with all of my being, the deaths, displacement, kidnappings and injuries of thousands of Israelis and Palestininans, including so many children and civilians. Every single person is an עוֹלָם מָלֵא, a world onto themselves, with inherent dignity and worth. Every death is an affront to God.

Many of us have strong ties to Israel/Palestine and to people we love there, Palestinians and Israelis. Many of us carry trauma that is likely to rush to the surface at moments like this. Many of us have important relationships that are now strained or breaking apart. We may feel sadness, rage, confusion, contradiction, loneliness, numbness or fear. As a community, we are impacted in many different ways.

For many of us in the community who are Jewish, there is also particular Jewish pain, Jewish fear, and Jewish trauma that is both created and triggered by the horror and brutality of the attack on Israelis over the weekend. This is real. In many places this fear and pain is weaponized for political ends. As a Jewish community we can and must create space where we can hold and work through Jewish and personal grief and trauma without the weaponization. We are worthy of grieving and we are worthy of compassion. If we do not, we risk causing more harm to ourselves and to others.

We are also a community steeped in Jewish values, articulated and affirmed by our leadership, that can help us relate to this moment. These values ask us to open our hearts wide enough to grieve the attacks on Israelis, and also grieve the revenge attacks on Palestinians, and also to grieve decades of occupation, siege, and displacement of Palestinians.  These values ask us to open our hearts wide enough to have ahavat yisrael, to care for and about our fellow Jews, while also being in solidarity with Palestinians and their demands for dignity, equality, and freedom as part of the present day struggle to leave the narrow place of mitzrayim. And these values remind us that we are in a brit/covenant with the Divine and one another to live with chesed/loving kindness and to care and support one another.

On Simchat Torah, for one of our hakafot, circle dances, we sang the words of the prophet Isaiah: לֹא־יִשָּׂא גוֹי אֶל־גּוֹי חֶרֶב וְלֹא־יִלְמְדוּ עוֹד מִלְחָמָה“Nation shall not take up sword against nation; They shall never again know war.” (Isaiah 2:4)We yearn and pray for the fulfillment of these words. We know that personal and collective action will be needed to make it so.

With prayers for safety and healing, justice and peace,

Rabbi Yosef Berman

PS: Gratitude to our sibling congregations in Synagogues Rising from whom we borrowed some of the language in this e-mail.