The inaugural Kabbalat Shabbat service of the San Diego Outreach Synagogue took place on Friday, October 26, 2018.
How could we know that just a few hours later, we would awaken to the news that eleven of our Jewish brothers and sisters would be struck down by an evil madman? That hatred so deep would claim the lives of eleven innocent souls? We are only beginning to cope with the grief we feel for the families in Pittsburgh and for the entire Tree of Life community as they mourn their unimaginable loss.
But what is next? To that end, I want to share a brief story with you:
In the fall of 1982, I was a 21-year-old college student traveling through Europe. While in Paris, in addition to seeing the iconic landmarks (Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum etc.), I was eager to walk through what was known as the “Jewish Quarter.” It was my understanding that many Jews lived in this part of town, and having lived most of the previous year in Israel, I was especially eager to connect with them. Yet while walking through the neighborhood, I noticed that my companion and I were among the very few people walking the streets. I was confused. Was I in the right place? Where were all the people? Where were the Jews?
Two years earlier, a bomb had exploded in front of a synagogue as worshippers began arriving in celebration of the start of Shabbat, killing four and wounding forty-six innocent people. In the aftermath, two hundred thousand people marched in solidarity and protest. Just a few months before I arrived in Paris, the violence against the Jews continued as gunmen murdered six people in a kosher restaurant. Now, instead of enjoying the beautiful sunny day, the Jews in that community were nowhere to be seen.
Then suddenly I was filled with a profound sadness as I realized: They were afraid and they were in hiding. They were afraid to live an openly Jewish life. With all that they had experienced, who could blame them?
In the wake of the horrific act of violence and display of virulent anti-Semitism that happened on October 27, 2018 at the Tree of Life Congregation, we stand in solidarity with our fellow Jews in Pittsburgh. We mourn. We cry. We attend vigils. We march. We express our outrage. We encourage each other to get out and vote because the importance of this election cannot be overstated.
But when the initial shock has worn off, will we ask ourselves: Is it safe for me to go to synagogue services? Or a Jewish community celebration in a park? Or to the Jewish Community Center?
Is it safe for me to live openly as a Jew?
I, for one, will not be silenced.
I will not live in fear. I will not be bullied into hiding who I am and my Jewish faith. I will continue to live an open and ethical Jewish life in accordance with the Jewish values on which our lives are based: On Torah. On worship and service. On acts of loving-kindness. (from “Pirkei Avot”)
Many of you may already members of various synagogues. I implore you to continue to attend the religious services and classes and functions at your places of worship. I encourage you to attend the many wonderful Jewish celebrations and community events that occur throughout our city each year.
For those of who will continue to attend the monthly services of the San Diego Outreach Synagogue, I want to assure you that security measures will be in place.
Wherever you are, I encourage you to continue living an openly Jewish life with pride.
If you feel the need to speak to a member of the clergy, please know that I am here for you. Please reach out to me, and I will be glad to support you in any way that I can.
Cantor Cheri Weiss