After Pittsburgh


I know all of us are feeling the impacts of the synagogue shooting this past Shabbat. And we are feeling it in different ways. I am aware that what I feel in my body and my mood is a grief. It's a similar grief I feel when someone I know has died. It's also a similar grief I felt when there was a shooting at a Quebec Mosque, or the Pulse Nightclub (targeting queer folks). The grief comes, as all grief does, in waves. Sometimes it's when I have a quiet moment. Sometimes, inconveniently, when I'm trying to do other things.

If you've been following my facebook page, I've posted several updates there, including a piece I wrote on Saturday called "Love and Rage." You can find it here (and follow that page if you want updates -- I'll post there way more often than I'll send emails. We all get so. many. emails.). I also posted about a gorgeous interfaith vigil I was privileged to speak at, and called for supporting HIAS, or JIAS, Jewish organizations that support refugees and who were also the target of the Pittsburgh murderer.

Here's what I haven't posted but I'll share with you:

1) I was teary during parts of my speech at the vigil. I couldn't help it. I hate feeling vulnerable in public but, there it was, I couldn't control the tears. My friend commented that what I'd said was powerful. I replied it would have been more powerful if I could have held it together. She said that it was powerful precisely because I couldn't hold it together. What I'm learning is that we need to feel whatever we're feeling here. The grief, the rage, the love. All of it.

2) I got beautiful comments about my post. But I got a couple of comments telling me I'm naive to think we can fight hatred with love. I am not saying we need to love blindly and to our own self-detriment. I am not saying we should allow others to harm us. But I am standing by my call for love. The less love there is in the world, the more hatred and indifference. And it is hatred and indifference that leads to othering and violence. So I'm gonna double down on the love.

3) One thing I have learned from powerful teachers of mine is how revolutionary it is to take care of yourself, especially when the world is saying you are not worth it. You are so worth it. Do what feels good now: stretch, walk in the sunshine, call a friend, do some yoga, see a therapist, have a bath. Take care of  yourself now. Right now. Eat that pint of ice cream or have that glass of wine (I've done both) but then get off the couch and go to work, first making yourself better and then making the world better.

4) You, we, are not alone. At my vigil, faith leaders of many religions spoke. I've received messages of support from people who aren't Jewish, but who know I'm in pain. Yes, this is a scary time. Yes, antisemites have been emboldened. But so many people are with us.

5) Words matter. Trump has stoked the sentiments that led to the shooting. In Ontario, where I live, Premier Doug Ford supported a virulent antisemitic white supremacist in Toronto's mayoral election, and when called out couldn't quite bring himself to condemn her or her views. But he spoke at the vigil in Toronto last night. Trump also has issued statements feigning concern (and some spectacular ones that reveal how he really feels). I am not tolerating this hypocrisy. I'm telling Jews I know who vote for these leaders exactly why it's dangerous. It was dangerous when we were not as obviously the targets. It's still dangerous now. And as Jews we should know better.

6) What next? Well, that's the question, isn't it? Not much is different for me. I am still going to work. For me that means providing Jewish experiences that bring meaning to people's lives and help promote justice in the world. It also means working with teachers to help make schools more equitable. Now more than ever I know my work is needed. I'm not giving up and I hope you don't give up either.

The folks over at SecularSynagogue.com are offering each other support at this tough time. I hope you have support. If you don't, reach out to me. I may not be able to hold back my tears, but I'm a great listener.

Take care (really. Do that),

Rabbi Denise