Last week was one of extreme emotions.
It started Saturday when the massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue was reported. The feelings were of horror and unbelief. Yes, there have been on-going instances of anti-Semitism, but the Pittsburgh attack was above and beyond. The worst anti-Jew incident in the history of our country.
On Sunday the predominant emotion was of grief. Grief for the 11 dead and for all the injured (the special needs brothers and a 97-year-old matriarch stood out). Every victim was a tragedy that ripped away a piece of my being.
Grief turned to sympathy as I thought of the families and the loved ones and acquaintances of the victims who had their lives disrupted in an instance and under the circumstances that would take years, if ever, to heal.
Next came the anger. How can an incident like this occur in a country like ours? What could have been done to prevent the shooting? What should have been done? After every mass shooting there is an uproar. “Something must be done” is the battle cry. We must act to curtail the hate groups. We must do more to treat the mentally stressed. We must examine gun controls. We should banish assault rifles. Yet all that happens is that the rhetoric turns into a murmur until the next incident. Yes, I was angry that nothing positive had been done to respond to mass shootings.
Then came reflection. What have I done to help change the norm? Did I contribute to causes that could have made a difference? Did I stump for candidates that might have helped? What should I do now?
Then came hope. My email began to flow and the telephone at Temple Beth Shalom stared to ring. There were communications from friends, neighbors and strangers expressing their thoughts about the terror in Pittsburgh. Temple Beth Shalom represented the Jews of Brigantine so Brigantonians expressed their support by reaching out to the Temple to show that they stood with the Jewish community. Could it be that once again the act of the bigots, the racists, the hate-mongers was going to have the reverse effect? Instead of laying down and surrendering from a stab in the back, were we going to rise up, throw our arms around each other and be more united than ever before?
The last emotion of the week was elation. On Friday night, Temple Beth Shalom joined thousands of synagogues for Solidarity Shabbat, a special Sabbath service to show unity with the Tree of Life Synagogue. That night the congregation was joined by a throng of Brigantine residents. The Rev. John Scotland from the Community Presbyterian Church, Fathers Ed Maher and Jose Thomas, Deacon Len Long and clergy/parishioners from St. Thomas the Apostle Church along with many acquaintances and neighbors were in attendance as just friends who came to tell the world that no one who suffers the wrath of a terror attack is going to stand alone. This is America and we stand together. When someone is knocked down, there will be many offering an extended hand to help them stand up and keep moving with more strength and resolve than before the stumble.
On behalf of the Jewish Community and especially on behalf of Temple Beth Shalom, I thank the residents of Brigantine for showing their support. We know we live in a great, loving environment in Brigantine. Your thoughts and actions have reinforced that.
Thanks for being great neighbors.
President, Temple Beth Shalom