Last night, our community gathered together - Jews, Christians, Muslims and other people of goodwill - to stand against hatred and to stand up for love, tolerance, inclusion and respect. It was one of many such gatherings held this week in the aftermath of the Poway shooting.
Prior to the program, I participated in evening prayer surrounded by fellow Jews. The minyan, a quorum of 10 Jewish adults required for prayer, is a custom that seems as old as time itself. Our Sages recognized the importance of the collective: the added power we have when we stand together, pray together and act together.
Standing together and chanting tefillot (prayers) in unison creates a safe space where we each can pursue our own spiritual connection knowing that we are not alone. Last week, for those praying at Chabad of Poway, California, that safe space was shattered when a young man entered the synagogue and began shooting.
But in spite of this hateful act, Jews around the world have joined together, stood tall and proclaimed that we will eradicate hate once and for all.
Hate crimes tear at the very fabric of our community. We are tired of having to divert our spiritual, emotional and material resources to repair these tears. But we will not become complacent; we will not become immune or desensitized to what seems to be a growing pattern of assaults rooted in bigotry.
Earlier this week, I represented our Jewish community at a private interfaith meeting of Muslim and Jewish leaders with Governor Lamont. We discussed the need to jointly address growing security concerns at all our houses of worship and religious institutions. There were 10 of us in the room - a different sort of minyan - because we Jews, and our brothers and sisters of other faiths, recognize the importance of standing together.
We know that when we stand together as in prayer, our voices carry more weight. The power of the collective is embedded in our DNA.
As part of our community's recent Yom HaShoah observances, I took a turn reading the names of fellow Jews who perished in the Holocaust. Arriving early for my appointed time, I flipped through the pages of names and - to my shock - found my great-grandfather. The name I did not find was my cousin Madeline, who survived the war as a child hidden by a Polish family. She later moved to Israel and lived a full and vibrant life. She recently passed away, but she is survived by nearly 30 loving children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
We human beings are remarkable creatures. When faced with the most horrendous conditions, we can respond with deeds of loving kindness that bring light back into the world. The forces that seek to divide us only encourage us to reach out, grab hold of those close to us and proclaim, "We will not be defeated!" Together we are stronger than all the hate that is thrown our way.
We have an amazing community here in Greater Hartford - a diverse community that welcomes all and that lives out the shared values we hold dear. There is comfort in being together, there is solace in visiting our houses of worship, there is joy and satisfaction when we perform acts of tzedakah (charity or justice), and there is tremendous power when we gather and raise our voices for what is right and good.
May our collective voice be heard loud and clear, here and across our nation, in the days, weeks, months and years to come.
President and CEO
Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford