A Message from our President, Rabbi Mel Gottlieb, PhD
We are heartbroken to learn of the devastating hate-crime shooting which took place at the Chabad of Poway. Our hearts go out to our brothers and sisters in San Diego, to their families and everyone affected by this terrible tragedy. We stand shoulder to shoulder with all those who mourn the painful loss of Lori Gilbert Kaye, and pray for the speedy recovery of the esteemed Rabbi Mendel Goldstein, Alon Peretz and 8-year old Noya Dahan.
The attack on a Shul during the day we recite Yizkor, during the joyous holiday of Pesach where we highlight gratitude for liberation and pray for a redeemed world, the juxtaposition with Yom Hashoa, the horrible attacks on houses of worship throughout the world, including Mosques, Churches and Synagogues leaves a devastating stain on our world, on our souls.
Our Sages teach us that on Pesach we include Maror, a symbol of bitterness along with the other symbols of liberation. It is to assert that we are not a naïve tradition which pretends that evil does not exist in our world; instead we are taught that the rhythm of life contains both tragedy and joy. And yet we take the Maror and make a Hillel sandwich signifying that bitterness can be tempered with the sweetness of Charoset as we believe that through our efforts and faith in G-d, we have the power to build a better reality through our holy deeds. The same message appears in this week’s Torah portion ‘Acharei Mot-Kedoshim.’ After the devastating death of Aaron’s two sons, and after a poignant moment of Aaron being stunned (‘Vayidom Aharon’), the Torah teaches that our response to tragedy is to take on a greater commitment to Kedusha (holiness). We never give in to despair, but we redouble our efforts to carry out our mandate to be a ‘Holy People’ and elevate our world to the heights it is capable of achieving.
We must confront the horrific reality of hateful online forums, the breeding ground for inspiring acts of violence, we must oppose the myth of ‘White genocide perpetrated by the Jewish people and people of color’. We must acknowledge that we live in a world where prejudice, intolerance, White Nationalism, anti Semitism, Islamophobia, racism, etc. are rising. Thus we must bring the ethical values of our tradition to the forefront, to join with brothers and sisters of all faiths in concrete action to oppose these forces of evil, to act with love, to use our strength to bring forth justice in all corners of our world and to be ‘healers’ in this sickened period of our existence.
I know that if we join together with our full, committed effort, the world of Kedusha will ascend and the values of Pesach will be our new reality, as our tradition promises at the end our Seder. On a practical level (and a necessary mitzvah of tzedaka), our dear student and resident of San Diego, Cantor Cheri Weiss, shares that The Jewish Federation of San Diego County and the Jewish Community Foundation are currently creating a fund to meet the immediate physical, psychological and spiritual needs of the victims and those impacted. The funds will also be used to support ongoing efforts to help the community heal from and feel safe despite these despicable acts. You can donate by visiting www.jewishinsandiego.org/donate and writing ‘Chabad of Poway’ in the comments section.
At our school building, we remain vigilant and join with UCLA Hillel in contact with the Jewish Federation and law enforcement to make sure that our security needs are being met.
We all pray for healing, for strength to assist in concrete deeds of tzedaka and Chesed in the coming days as we learn of and create opportunities to bestow Kedusha on our world, and to persevere with humility, compassion and faith in the days ahead.
Rabbi Mel Gottlieb