On Sunday, vigils were held in many cities to commemorate the 11 worshippers killed at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27, 2018. The shooting was the deadliest attack on Jews in American history.
As we have mourned and taken greater measures toward protecting ourselves, we have, mainly, not let fear paralyze us or isolate us from our neighbours and the larger world. We have continued to live Jewishly, whatever that means to each one of us; whether it’s helping those less fortunate, lobbying for sound government policies, going to synagogue or simply being kind to the people we encounter in our day.
In Vancouver, community members and others could join two collective moments of remembrance on Sunday: the Jewish Federations of North America’s Pause with Pittsburgh, which included the livestreaming of a public memorial service, and a service at Congregation Beth Israel, organized by the Rabbinical Association of Vancouver with the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver, Hillel BC and the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver.
Over the weekend, Jews were also encouraged – as they were in the wake of the tragedy last year – to #ShowUpForShabbat, an initiative of the American Jewish Committee, calling for us “to honour the victims and raise our collective voice for a world free of antisemitism, hate and bigotry.”
Beth Israel’s Rabbi Jonathan Infeld, who grew up in Pittsburgh, told News 1130, “There are still many people who are frightened and worried about what took place a year ago…. There are people who are concerned about coming to synagogue and people who are concerned about antisemitism. Especially on holidays, one of the messages I deliver is that, unfortunately, antisemitism is on the rise in the world. But we have to remain strong, to have the courage to come to synagogue, and to not allow attacks like this to prevent us from being who we are and to deprive us of the benefits that come from being in a sacred space.”
Infeld also noted, “One of the aftermaths of the attack is that people in Pittsburgh didn’t feel this was an attack just on a synagogue, they felt it was an attack on Pittsburgh…. We have to understand an attack on any sacred space is an attack on an entire community, so we need to stand together as one community with the message that love is stronger than hate.”
While the situation is not as bad as elsewhere in the world, the number of hate crimes and the incidences of antisemitism in Canada, including in British Columbia, have increased worrisomely. Love has a long row to hoe. Not only to give us the courage to speak up in the face of prejudice, but also to confront and temper our own. Not only to make us self-assured enough to make space for those with whom we agree and for whom we care, but also for those with whom we disagree and whom we dislike. Not only to inspire us to dream of a better world, but to give us the imagination and resourcefulness to bring those aspirations into being.
Love can only be stronger than hate if we choose to make it so.