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Rabbi's Weekly Message

Rabbi Peltz - Thursday, January 20

Our Torah reading last Shabbat ended with Amalek attacking the Israelites as they traveled through the desert.  The Israelites fight back, and prevail, but the final words of the portion are ominous.  “The Lord will be at war with Amalek throughout the ages.” In the Passover Haggadah, where we retell the story of the Exodus, we recall how in every generation there are people who threaten us. Still, with God’s help and the help of our own vigilance and allies, we have prevailed. I thought about this as I reflected on what happened at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, TX last Saturday night. Like so many of you, I was glued to my phone from the time Shabbat ended, hoping and praying that the hostages would, like the Israelites, go from shiabud l’geulah, from captivity to redemption.  We rejoiced when, after 11 hours, they escaped safely.  As that moment passed, however, and we have learned more, we are left to consider what we learn from this story.  We now add Colleyville to Pittsburgh, Poway and Jersey City – a contemporary litany of antisemitic assaults on our community.

Despite some initial assessments, make no mistake, this was antisemitism.  The confusion, as Yair Rosenberg wrote in The Atlantic, comes from antisemitism being unique from other hatreds.  As he writes, it “is not merely social prejudice; it is a conspiracy theory about how the world operates.” That’s why the attacker thought he could free a federal prisoner by forcing the Jews to say that they wanted her free. It makes no rational sense, but that is part of allure. That is also why antisemitism can be perpetuated by a Muslim, as in Colleyville, and a white supremacist, as in Pittsburgh. It is an insidious belief that threatens not only Jews but also, as history has shown time and again, the societies in which Jews live.

So what do we do about it? First, as Ron writes about in his update, we continue to be vigilant with our security. Second, we need to work with our partners to better understand contemporary antisemitism and strategies to address it.  This is why our Social Advocacy Committee has partnered with the Anti-Defamation League for an important conversation on Thursday night, February 3 at 7pm on Zoom. Robin Burstein, the Interim Regional Director of the ADL, will lead a discussion entitled “After Colleyville: From Lessons to Action.” I hope that you will be able to join us for this. In meantime, the ADL has great resources for talking to children about antisemitism and hatred.  Additionally, I encourage you to click here to tell our Senators to immediately confirm Deborah Lipstadt to serve as the US Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.

Finally, I think that the most important thing that we can do to combat antisemitism is to be together in community. Come to shul, in-person or virtually, learn Torah, give tzedakah, and celebrate being Jewish.  When we are proud of our history and our heritage, then we understand what we are fighting for, and why it is so important.  Attacks like the one this week are difficult and challenging, but they also contain the potential for us to learn and grow as individuals, and as a Jewish community.  This is how we can overcome antisemitism and hatred, and continue our people’s journey from darkness to great light.

A Guide for Virtual Shabbat and Holiday Services

“The Shabbat services that we offer virtually help keep us spiritually connected while we are physically distant. Though we normally do not use electronic devices on Shabbat, the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative Movement considers this to be a hora’at sha’ah, an extraordinary time, which allows us to make an exception to our normal observance. You can read the halakahic ruling (teshuvah) that comprehensively addresses our situation here. Even though we are using technology to gather for services on Shabbat and holidays, we still try to minimize the use of our devices in honor of Shabbat. Click here to see our guide to help with this.

A PDF version of Siddur Lev Shalem is available HERE or can be purchased at the TBS office for $54 each.

Mon, January 24 2022 22 Shevat 5782