Extending a Hand of Friendship

I prepared this message before the world learned of the horrific attack in Nice, France, that took the lives of over 80 people, a large proportion of whom were children. Once again, the flow of tears washes over us as we try to make sense of the continual display of hatred in our world. Our Jewish community stands in support of the people of France who once more must confront the evil face of terrorism.

This has been a sad week for our country. We stand united in mourning with the families of the Dallas police officers, whose lives were lost in the line of duty, protecting peaceful demonstrators. We also express our condolences to the families of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, who lost their lives during encounters with police.

As Jews, we are particularly sensitive whenever race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation is used as a weapon to divide and marginalize people. We were horrified to learn of the unprovoked assault on police officers in Dallas ­ - which further underscored how much more work we must do to end the senseless killing, hatred, and bigotry that is growing more prevalent in our society.

Such incidents provoke people on all sides to passionately express their frustrations and demands for justice and equality. At the same time, it is so easy to become immune and desensitized to the significant challenges we must face as a moral, just, and ethical society.

How can we have an impact? Perhaps one person, one action, one touch at a time. We must extend hands of support and friendship and begin to break down the barriers that keep us apart. That is the essence of our core Jewish value of Tikkun Olam: taking an active role in repairing the world.

I want to share one of those special moments when an unsolicited hand of support and friendship was offered here in our community.

Last Shabbat, in response to the report of the attack against police in Dallas, Rabbi Brander of the Young Israel of West Hartford spoke from his heart, expressing our condolences to the families of the slain officers and our support for the local police who put their lives on the line each day to protect us all. I want to share with you the letter he later wrote to Chief Gove and Officer McAvay of the West Hartford Police Department. I believe it captures a sentiment we all share.

Dear Chief Gove and Officer McAvay,

In the wake of the terrible attack in Dallas, I wanted to take a moment to reach out and convey our deepest condolences. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and the WHPD, the families and officers of the Dallas Police Department and with law enforcement professionals across the nation. Please also allow me to express our sincerest gratitude to you and all your dedicated officers for your tireless commitment to the safety and security of our community.

Our Jewish tradition teaches us, "pray for the welfare of the enforcers of government... [for if not for them] a person would swallow one's fellow alive" (Babylonian Talmud Avot 2:3). Law enforcement officers are specifically singled out in our holy Torah as being critical pillars of society (Deuteronomy 16:18), and our sages explicate further explaining that law enforcement officials carry special Divine blessings and through our respecting them we too merit Divine blessings.

At this difficult juncture, we would like to reaffirm that you and your officers carry our deepest respect, sincerest gratitude and strongest wishes for well-being. Thank you for standing by us day after day, and please know that today and every day we stand with you.


Tuvia Brander

Rabbi, Young Israel of West Hartford

We are grateful to all of our local law enforcement agencies for their commitment to our community and specifically for the work they do as partners in our Jewish community. We hope the memory of those whose lives were lost will be a blessing for all of us, inspiring us to work harder to strengthen the bonds that bring us together in peace.

Shabbat Shalom.


Howard Sovronsky
President & CEO


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