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Chayei Sarah, Installation 11-3-2018

Thank you Rabbi Simon – It’s so special to have you here today.  Rabbi Simon has known me since my rabbinical school orientation.  He has been and continues to be my teacher, mentor, and friend.  He has helped to shape the way I approach being a rabbi, and I am appreciative that he is here with us today.  And by the way, and he has a good success rate – Rabbi Simon also officiated at my installation in New York.

Friends, it is a bittersweet Shabbat.  As Congregation Beth David we should be celebrating our relationship and this new phase of our identity.  But as a Jewish community, we are grieving last week’s terrible tragedy in Pittsburgh.

As you know, just one week ago, 11 people were murdered at the Tree of Life Synagogue.  They were:

-Joyce Fienberg, 75, of Oakland, City of Pittsburgh
-Richard Gottfried, 65, of Ross Township
-Rose Mallinger, 97, of Squirrel Hill, City of Pittsburgh
-Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, of Edgewood Borough
-Cecil Rosenthal, 59, of Squirrel Hill, City of Pittsburgh
-David Rosenthal, 54, (brother of Cecil), of Squirrel Hill
-Bernice Simon, 84, of Wilkinsburg
-Sylvan Simon, 86, (husband of Bernice), of Wilkinsburg
-Daniel Stein, 71, of Squirrel Hill, City of Pittsburgh
-Melvin Wax, 88, of Squirrel Hill, City of Pittsburgh
-Irving Younger, 69, of Mt. Washington, City of Pittsburgh

Please join me in a moment of silence as we remember those who lost their lives for simply showing up to shul, and let us pray for strength for the Pittsburgh community as they begin to move forward after last week’s horrific act of hate.

Moment of silence.

Originally, I was planning to speak about the nature of relationships in Parashat Chayei Sarah – how Abraham secures a meaningful and positive future for his son Isaac; how Isaac and Rebecca form a bond and partnership; how after Sarah dies, Abraham remarries and enters a new phase in his life, and what all of these stories can teach us about the relationship between congregation and rabbi.

But then the world changed, and while these messages are still important, I am going to spend a few moments talking about the power of relationships in a different context.

In our Torah reading a little bit earlier, we read Breisheet, chapter 25, verse 9, which teaches us that after Abraham died, “His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah.”  Isaac and Ishmael, after a lifetime of being adversaries, put aside their differences to come together to honor their father.  And, I imagine, to comfort each other, to console each other after their shared loss.

It is a remarkable moment in the Torah, and I can’t help but think about the outpouring of love the Jewish community in Pittsburgh, here in Saratoga, and in cities and towns all over the United States have received and experienced from our neighbors of all faiths.

Earlier this week, our Muslim neighbors came by the synagogue to deliver flowers and words of comfort and support.  As of this past Tuesday, the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh had raised nearly $200,000 to help the Jewish community cover funeral costs – their initial goal was $25,000.  We are both the descendants of the children of Abraham.  More importantly, we are all children of God.

Some of you may have heard this already this week, but it bears repeating – according to the ADL,

In 2017, there were 1,986 incidents of anti-Semitism in the United States.  This is a 57% increase from 2016, and the single largest increase since the ADL started tracking this data in 1979.  What’s more, the incidents on college campuses and in schools doubled in 2017, after doubling in 2016 from 2015.  This is a huge increase.  Anti-Semitic hate in this country is real.

We have seen incidents continue even after what happened in Pittsburgh.  There was vulgar anti-Semitic graffiti painted on a synagogue in Irvine.  In Brooklyn on Thursday night, an event was canceled at a synagogue after “Kill the Jews” was found painted in a stairwell.  It is not just swastikas or awful remarks which are disturbing enough – now the hate speech calls for violence.

This is why it is so powerful and so important to be surrounded not only by the Beth David community, but by members of so many faith traditions.  This week taught us that although hatred against Jews is a reality, we have loving neighbors – we are not alone.

400 people gathered at Shir Hadash on Sunday night to mourn together, including Christians and Muslims.  On Tuesday, 600 people gathered at City Hall in San Jose to stand against hate.  More than 50 members of clergy representing diverse religious traditions, as well as 18 elected officials came together to support the Jewish community, to support one another and to state loudly and clearly that an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.

Similar rallies and vigils have taken place all over the country, and so while it feels too soon to move from grief to hope, from darkness to light, in these dark days, we must remember that love will conquer hate.

This past week, in the aftermath of the shooting, we felt the bonds of community.  Members of Beth David reached out to one another, and members of the interfaith community reached out to us.  I lost count of how many members of clergy emailed me asking what they could do for us, how they could support us during this most difficult time.

<Last night 7 people from neighboring churches joined us for services as a way of expressing that there is strength in numbers.>

These bonds of community, indeed of humanity are so powerful.  They are truly a reminder that love will conquer hate.  It is why it is so important for us to be active members of the community – both here at Beth David and well beyond the synagogue walls.

This is the message that I keep with me on this Shabbat – a message of community, a message of love and light.  A message of comfort and support.  I feel so fortunate to be welcomed into a community that has such good friends and neighbors.

On this #ShowUpForShabbat, I would like to welcome the mayor of Saratoga, Mary Lynne Bernald, and the Bishop of the Saratoga Ward for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Colin Robinson.  Any other guests?  If you feel comfortable introducing yourself, please do so that we can welcome you.  Thank you for being here with us to both mourn and celebrate.

Jewish tradition teaches that life is rarely all happy or all sad – there is usually a mix of emotions.  It is why we break a glass at a wedding.  We feel pain even in times of joy, and we find glimmers of hope even in times of despair.  So while we are still reeling from the pain of last week’s tragedy, I hope that you, like me, also feel the strong bonds of community.

I feel blessed to be entering this relationship with Congregation Beth David.  Together, we will craft a vision and create a path into the future.  May that path be filled with love and light.  May this community always be one where people can find comfort and support.  It is my privilege to serve as your mara d’atra and your rabbi.

Shabbat Shalom