Gun Control Healing


Hineni.   I am here.    Like Abraham of old i stand ready to serve thee
Today i am here in Shul.
With my friends and neighbors
Filled with sadness and anger
Searching for words


But what about tomorrow?

I will not sacrifice Isaac.

Sarah must not die from the pain of a child’s death.

Nor will we be fooled by Satan’s fake news.

Tomorrow must be different

So I will rise up early but I will not pack my bags.

Instead I will stand resolute as a Jew

I will work for a world where Isaac and Ishmael live as brothers.

And I will try harder to find 10 righteous,
Davka because yesterday 11 gave their lives

Tomorrow I will know that despite the sadness and the tears, the killing and the hate, good people walk with us
And God’s promise will not lie curdled in our mouths like spoiled milk.

For I believe that someday, one day
all the families of the earth shall be blessed through love.

Yes.  These things I pledge for tomorrow.

But today, today I mourn.  Today I heal.  Today I look forward to

Rabbi Sanford Akselrad serves Congregation Ner Tamid in Henderson, Nevada.  

Is It Safe?

“Is it safe?” They asked me.

Over and Over.
Is it safe at night? Safe for women? For “Whites”?
Will you be able to walk the dog? To drive?
Will you run out of water?
Is the country safe? The city? The neighbourhood?
Did you choose a “good” street?
Is there off-street parking? Electric fencing? An alarm?

And each time, with whatever reassurance I could give,
came also this question back from me,
“Is anywhere really safe, these days?”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This week, in South Africa, Jewish communities joined in the Shabbos Project – a country-wide observance. At our #ProudlyProgressive temple, we had a weekend full of awesome and well attended inclusive, egalitarian events and services. A Challah-Bake; A T’fillin-Wrap Minyan; A music-filled Erev Shabbat T’fillah.

And yesterday morning, a Temple Israel unity service – with all of us in one location, celebrating Shabbat together with music and learning and five rabbis (2 of them women) and two guitars, and nusach and chazzanut and harmonies.

And, a baby naming (two fathers, who wouldn’t have access to this ritual anywhere else in the city).

And at the end, lots and lots of food.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

On Shabbes afternoon, when people were being slaughtered in another part of the world, and I didn’t yet know,
I was elated – celebrating the end of a hot morning with a dip in the pool,
with new friends who are like family;
with my dog;
with a call to my mom to share my absolute joy at this new life I have landed myself into.
Then, home to watch the rugby, as one does here,
and then

the call. the channel change to CNN. the tears.

If I had been moving to Pittsburgh last month, no one would have asked me, “Is it safe?”
But there I was, in South Africa, tucked up on the couch with the dog,
behind our security gate and the front door gate and the bolted door (of course),
and my Shabbat morning had been safe –
I hadn’t even given it a thought, though I greeted the guard on the way in
(through the temple’s security gate)

and that baby was safe in the arms of her fathers
and they will have beautiful sun-soaked memories
and there,
in Pittsburgh, another baby’s simcha was shattered,
and lives were lost

Bubbies and Zadies laying in blood
in the place they came to pray and celebrate
and be in community

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It is beyond belief.

It is all too believable.

it was only a matter of time


how, in this day and age . . .
how indeed?

We know the answers.
We know these are dark times
and that they will pass
and better times will be had.

Other babies will be welcomed in safety
but it may get worse before it gets better

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I am far from home
I am a rabbi who’s worst nightmare just happened to another rabbi,
where it should have been safe
but wasn’t

I don’t have all the words yet
to express the sorrow
the rage
the hope

But this is what I know:

As evening fell, I went back to my new shul
to my new home
to my new family.
I was held and comforted and fed and distracted.
There was Torah study and music and wine.
And with guitar in hand I led Havdallah with my new colleagues
because we are rabbis and that is what we do
we lead these moments no matter what –
whether the Shabbat was beautiful or horrific or both,
just as so many rabbis in America led Havdallah last night with vigil candles
with tears streaming
with words of comfort being sought and found
just as they, and we, will continue to lead the way in the days to come.
Held by our communities even as we hold them.

Across borders
Across continents
Across the room

This is a day when we are all together. Grieving. Singing. Ending one week into the next.
Knowing there will be better Shabbatot ahead and worse
Knowing there is work to be done
and slivers of heaven in among the brokenness

My heart is in Pittsburgh. My home is in Africa.
And Canada
And Israel
And yes, even America, even still.
And wherever there is a Jew in need

Home is sometimes the place that is safe
And sometimes it is not
and it is still home
and we hold each other
until we can make it safe again.

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb serves Temple Israel Cape Town Progressive Jewish Congregation in Cape Town, South Africa.  This blog was originally posted on Rabbi Gottlieb’s personal blog

Healing Social Justice

After Pittsburgh: Confronting Anti-Semitism and Ourselves

The gunman who struck the Tree of Life Synagogue on Shabbat in Pittsburgh indicated on line that he wanted to “Kill Jews.” Prior events whether at our southern border, on the streets of Charlottesville, or at political rallies sponsored by our President, Jews were seen as passive observers to the changing political scenarios of this nation. The assault on worshippers that took place this past Shabbat morning however was seen as a direct attack on Judaism and America’s Jews. It would represent the single most violent incident against Jewish Americans in the history of the United States.

In a society already under assault by the politics of hate, this is but one more indication that a war is underway for America’s soul. Where once America and Americans celebrated differences, today there is a conscious and deliberate effort to intimidate and seek to silence those who represent different religious, sexual and political beliefs and practices. Democracy itself is being threatened. Hate violence has replaced civic discourse. As a result anti-Semitism is a manifestation of a fundamental disregard for the respect for diversity. In this new and uncertain political environment, Jews have become political targets.

It is cynical for politicians to offer words of comfort in the aftermath of violence, when their own rhetoric, framed in nationalistic images, seeks to question the loyalty of certain Americans and where political operatives single out individuals suggesting that they are the cause of America’s troubles. In this type of political culture, violence and hate will sadly be manifested on our streets.

A year ago on these pages, I wrote:

A fundamental political sea change appears to be underway. As America’s social fabric is being tested, new strains of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism have emerged globally and at home. …There is a heightened awareness among Jews of extremist expressions challenging not only the existing democratic norms of the nation but also reflective of how minority communities, including Jewish Americans, are being categorized and threatened. 

A new political reality faces American Jewry in the aftermath of Pittsburgh, as hate has gone mainstream. Moving forward, will Jews feel safe in this country? Out of this nightmare, will a new sense of the collective spirit of the Jewish people be rekindled?

The ongoing, unresolved issues that re-emerged on Saturday remain to be addressed. These concerns involve gun violence, the discourse of politicians who need to be held accountable for the words that they employ, and the use of social media to convey hate messaging. These and other policies and practices define who we are and what it may mean to be an American.

Fear and intimidation must not be allowed to silence Jews or others. This is a moment that demands a serious conversation among Americans about the state of our nation and the collective interests and shared values that bind us together. This is a time to reassert the civic principles that convey the American story. We owe it to these victims of anti-Semitism and to ourselves.

Professor Steven Windmueller, Ph.D. is the Alfred Gottschalk Emeritus Professor of Jewish Communal Service at the Jack H. Skirball Campus of HUC-JIR, Los Angeles. His writings can be found on his website, www.thewindreport.comThis article was originally posted on