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“Mourn. Together. Act.” Rabbi Zecher’s Shabbat Awakenings

October 20, 2023 | 5 Cheshvan 5784

As we enter Shabbat this week, we are grieving still, frightened for the safety of the people of Israel, saddened by the humanitarian crisis and the suffering of innocent Palestinians in Gaza. 200 hostages remain in the grip of Hamas terrorists. We pray for the safety of friends and family in harm’s way every day.

We also know that we are part of a wider community who mourns with us and condemns the brutality of Hamas. Over the past two weeks, I have found that the messages of support and comfort with and for the Jewish community has buoyed me, and I know for others as well. This is why when we have considered our own process at Temple Israel, we use three words: Mourn. Together. Act. I have been moved by knowing how much others mourn together with us and have acted through their words to demonstrate that support.

I share with you a few excerpts, all can be found in full on our website along with other resources.

Our sister congregation, Bethel AME of Boston, offered these words:

A cry is heard in Ramah / Wailing, bitter weeping / Rachel weeping for her children / She refuses to be comforted / For her children, who are gone. (Jeremiah 31:15)

WE Mourn
as we denounce the deliberate and abhorrent slaughter and hostage-taking of Israeli civilians by Hamas fighters. We weep with Jewish family, friends, and neighbors who must grieve for the dead and live with the uncertain fate of the taken and the missing.

We mourn the Palestinian civilians who have already paid the blood price for the choices of others…

The Black Ministerial Alliance Ten Point Coalition presented this message to the greater community:

The Black Ministerial Alliance Ten Point of Greater Boston, a large network of churches, faith-based and other community organizations in Eastern Massachusetts, joins in solidarity with the many voices of morality in condemning the senseless, inhumane, and horrific actions of Hamas carried out against Israel last weekend.

We stand with Israel at this hideous hour of horror caused by Hamas…

Brandeis University modeled how a university must lead its students and community with this message from its President, Ronald Liebowitz:

This morning we awoke to news of a deadly terrorist attack on Israel. Many of us in the Brandeis community have close family, friends, colleagues and former classmates and students in the region, and many have spent a frightening day trying to reach those who live there. My thoughts are with all of those who are suffering in the wake of this outburst of violence…

We condemn in the strongest way terrorism such as we have seen today perpetrated against innocent civilians; we support Israel’s right to defend itself. It has always been our belief at Brandeis that engaging and wrestling with divisive issues from a place of compassion is how we begin to heal our broken world.

I found particular strength from the President of the University of Florida, Ben Sasse, for his direct message of compassion and support:

I will not tiptoe around this simple fact: What Hamas did is evil and there is no defense for terrorism. This shouldn’t be hard…As for us, our educational mission here begins with the recognition and explicit acknowledgment of human dignity — the same human dignity that Hamas’ terrorists openly scorn. Every single human life matters. We are committed to that truth. We will tell that truth…But I also want to be clear about this: We will protect our Jewish students from violence. If anti-Israel protests come, we will absolutely be ready to act if anyone dares to escalate beyond peaceful protest. Speech is protected — violence and vandalism are not…

Greater Boston Interfaith Organization worked through the week to find common ground within its diverse membership, through its strategy team, to voice its message:

The Greater Boston Interfaith Organization is rooted in relationships between people across diverse faiths and neighborhoods in order to build a greater Boston that is more just. Our work begins with our stories: stories that contain our hopes and our fears, the dreams for our children and the cries of our ancestors. This past week, for all of us those dreams seem more distant and the cries more poignant.
As leaders within GBIO, our hearts are broken by the terrorist attack against Israelis in Southern Israel, the terrible suffering of Palestinians in Gaza and the seemingly intractable nature of this conflict…

Mayor Michelle Wu stood on our bima and expressed without equivocation:

I strongly condemn the horrific attack by Hamas against innocent Israeli civilians. We share in the grief felt by the Israeli community of Boston, the broader Jewish community, and all who are mourning innocent lives lost throughout the region. We join in prayers for peace.

May the strength of Israel endure and may there come a time when peace becomes stronger than violence and all those who live in the region know calm from a united heart of community and cooperation.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Elaine Zecher