Answer Hatred with Love

We heard about the shootings in Pittsburgh at our synagogue after services during kiddush. Not yet knowing details, and a bit in shock, we sang Shabbat songs with joy, belting out medieval poems to the tunes of the Bumblebee Tuna jingle and “Sloop John B.” That’s what we do when we gather to celebrate Shabbat: we pray, eat, laugh and sing.

On the way out of synagogue, our security guard filled us in a bit more. An Orangetown police car, he told us, would be staying at the synagogue all afternoon. It started to become more real.

After Havdalah, I turned on my phone and found a plethora of messages on Facebook from colleagues and friends, expressing a range of sorrow, outrage, and fear.

I reached out to a dear friend who lives in Squirrel Hill with support and concern. Though her family attends another synagogue, I know that everyone in that close-knit community knows each other. She appreciated my contacting her, and wrote back, “It could have been any synagogue anywhere in America.”

Over this past day, I have heard many versions of that sentiment. “They are my family members.” “I am connected to them all.” “What happens to one Jewish community happens to us all.”

Israelis who come from Pittsburgh organize a vigil in Kikar Rabin, Tel Aviv

What do Jewish people do with this overwhelming sense of connectedness? How do we respond to a tragedy when we live by the dictum:

‏כל ישראל ערבים זה בזה

All of Israel is responsible one for the other.

We seek to be together as a community. As one of my congregants said to me, “We need to claim our seats after something like this happens.”

And once we are together, what are we meant to do?

How do we cope with the feelings of sorrow and helplessness when confronted with senseless hatred? We look hatred in the face and we answer it with love.

How do we grieve?

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote: “There are three ascending levels of mourning: with tears — that is the lowest. With silence — that is higher. And with a song — that is the highest.”

It was perhaps a coincidence, but I believe it was Providence… the OJC had planned our singing extravaganza, Kol OJC, the Voice of OJC, for this morning. Amichai Margolis, our Music Director, had been rehearsing with our band for a month. We had videography and sound engineering in place. 175 of us, of all ages, came together to learn a song in five parts in under an hour. We began with a moment of silence and dedicated our singing to the Pittsburgh Jewish community.

And once again, Providence played a hand in the songs that we sang: “Hineh mah tov,” How good and pleasant it is to sit, brothers and sisters together, and “V’ahavta l’re’acha kamocha,” Love your neighbor as yourself. The messages could not have been more meaningful or more timely.

Koolulam, the amazing Israel project which inspired us to organize Kol OJC, gathers thousands of singers. But we had just as much excitement and energy in our sanctuary as Koolulam gathers in any stadium throughout Israel. (Watch for our video around Chanukah time!)

When we feel afraid, sorrowful, and devastated by events over which we have no control, we have a choice about how we will respond. We can despair or we can take action.Today, at the OJC, we powerfully experienced the way that taking spiritual action can lift up a community.

May we go from strength to strength. May the community of Tree of Life Ohr L’Simcha Synagogue feel our solidarity and support in the face of their devastating loss. May the Squirrel Hill community, and Jewish people everywhere discover reservoirs of strength and optimism. May we remember that we are God’s partners in repairing our world. May we never give in to despair.

Rabbi Paula Mack Drill


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6 responses to “Answer Hatred with Love”

  1. nesor3 says :

    Thank you Rabbi for your words of Wisdom.
    All I can say for myself at this moment is,”There are no words”. I feel literally punched in the stomach. My cousin lives in Squirrel Hill and was in her Conservative Shul several blocks away. Thank G-d they are all safe, however 15 of our brothers & sisters were not.
    I do believe that hate has no place in our world if we want to live a meaningful & productive life.. I am so proud to be a part of the OJC Community where I feel we can pray & be in peace with leadership
    from our three wonderful Rabbis. Thank you!

  2. Rhonda Plawner says :

    I am so proud and humbled to be a congregant of the Orangetown Jewish Center. Rabbi Drill wrote words of comfort and wisdom. When there are no words, she always has them. We are so fortunate to have a close knit community to share both good times and sad times.

  3. J. Scott (Yitzchak) says :

    This issue is very difficult one for me. Yes, I would love to respond with love. But the anger and sadness makes wonder what will it take to resolve Anti-Semitism. As the saying goes: NEVER AGAIN!

  4. Lita says :

    Than you so much for your inspirational message. You are a messenger of support and love..I love you, our community and our rabbis and staff. Got bless.

  5. Cat Cantor says :

    Thank-you so much, Rabbi Drill, for your beautiful words of comfort and strength in a time when it is so hard to find the words. Much love.

  6. Rileen Rogers says :

    Thank you dearest Rabbi Drill for your words of strength, and love during this challenging time. May you go from strength to strength.Amen luv Eileen Rogers

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