Like many of us, I am deeply distressed, worried, and troubled about Israel and the effects of the horrific terrorist abuses perpetrated by Hamas. I am angry that Hamas has dragged Israel – and the Jewish people – into a war that will not have any victors, but rather will claim many innocent victims. My heart is so heavy.
The unending one-sided news stories that skew reality and paint Israel as a cruel aggressor, make me shudder and cringe. Yesterday, I happened upon the Instagram postings of a dear friend – and a chill went through my spine: she posted something that was clearly antisemitic, appearing to refer to the Jews with a similar horrid caricature meant to conjure up an image that the Nazis used in the 30’s and 40’s. Her social media is replete with falsified video clips of released Israeli hostages saying that Hamas treated them with great hospitality and so much more. She believes that Hamas attacked Israel, however she doesn’t believe all the atrocities committed on October 7th. I felt ill. I am at a loss. I see my friend every week, we’ve shared peak moments in each other’s lives, observed holidays and festivals together. We celebrate each other’s differences and rejoice in our shared values. She is Muslim. I am Jewish. I don’t know how this relationship will play itself out.
I am also working with a group of interfaith clergy to plan an Interfaith Thanksgiving Service to be hosted here at Temple Beth Sholom (November 21st, 7:00 PM – we hope you will join us. Watch this space for details). We are blessed to have many different religions joining together and participating in this service of gratitude and unity. It saddens me that none of my Muslim colleagues have found a way to participate – yet. We all want peace, safety, and security. I hope that in the next few weeks this will change, and our Muslim community will stand by us, side-by-side, heart-to-heart.
It is in this week’s Torah portion, Lech L’cha, that we first see the Jewish people’s connection to the Land of Israel. In Genesis 12: 1-3, God promises Abram that if Abram goes to the land that God shows him, then God will “make of you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and it shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will pronounce doom on those who curse you; through you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Our history and connection to the land of Israel is long and deep. It is spiritual, physical and emotional. Time and again we overcame those who didn’t think we have a right to exist, those who, like Hamas, would like to eradicate us from this earth. I am not a fundamentalist. I do not believe that the Torah is God’s literal word. Yet at the same time, the small nation of the Jewish people has survived and thrived through the millennia despite those who wanted to destroy us.
I have to believe in my heart that we will prevail again, that Israel will triumph over Hamas and evil, that the Jewish people will overcome and subdue the proliferation of antisemitism that is rearing its ugly head. I have to believe – I want to believe, I need to believe, that good will prevail over malice and hatred. My prayer is that God’s blessing in Lech L’cha will be fulfilled and sustained. As the prophet Micah said: “All shall sit under their vine and fig tree, and none shall make them afraid.”
In the meantime, we continue to pray for peace for all the good people in Israel and Gaza. No more war, no more death. We pray for the safe return of all the hostages, soon. I invite you to join us this evening in a worldwide Reform Movement Shabbat of solidarity with the people and state of Israel: “Shine Your Light.” Wear a blue ribbon or something blue. Light an extra candle. Let us join our hearts, hands, and prayers together as a united, strong community.
Some updates and information from the Union for Reform Judaism:
The worldwide Reform Movement is standing in solidarity with the people and State of Israel. We pray for an end to the war, healing for those injured, and the safe return of all those taken captive by Hamas.
As we follow the developing news in Israel, we urge you to keep up to date on what we are doing and ways you can help:
ACTIONS TO TAKE
- Join the URJ and RAC in urging President Biden and Congress to continue standing with Israel, leading other nations to do the same.
- Urge your congressional representatives to confirm a United Sates ambassador to Israel. It is essential to have an effective representative from the United States in the region who can help secure the release of hostages, including Americans, held in Gaza.
- Donate to the Jewish Federations of North America’s (JFNA) Operation: Swords of Iron campaign. JFNA is working with the URJ and our partners to support victims of terror, rebuild damaged infrastructure, and address the unprecedented levels of trauma caused by these horrific attacks. You can give through your local federation or directly to JFNA.
- On Friday, October 27, observe a Shabbat of Solidarity with Israel. Leave an empty seat, marked with the name and photo of a hostage, at your Shabbat table. Wear your blue ribbon. Share a photo of your tribute or the below graphic on social media with the hashtags #ShineYourLight #BlueRibbonsforIsrael #BringThemHome. Visit our partner, Blue Ribbons for Israel, to download additional social media graphics and banners that feature the names and faces of the hostages, as well as printable postcards to distribute in your community or congregation.
- Pray for the State of Israel, the Israel Defense Forces, the civilians held captive, and for peace. The Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) has compiled a free booklet of prayers.
- There have seen a number of deeply troubling posts on social media that are antisemitic, anti-Israel, and/or contain misinformation or disinformation. Learn how to respond to these posts online.
- Toolkit for Clergy: Prayers, readings, recordings and resources you can consider incorporating into your congregation’s services.
- Take steps to ensure the safety of your community by following these tips from Secure Community Network (SCN), the official safety and security organization of the Jewish community in North America, and the URJ.
- The URJ has compiled resources to help parents talk with their children about the current situation in Israel in an authentic, age-appropriate manner.
INTERVIEWS AND WEBINARS
- Watch Rabbi Rick Jacobs’s October 17 interview with Fox discussing the bombing of a hospital in Gaza, Biden’s visit to Israel, the implications of an Israeli ground incursion, and the importance of President Biden’s visit to Israel on October 18.
- Watch Rabbi Rick Jacobs’s October 14 MSNBC appearance, in which he condemns Hamas’s attack on Israel, encourages continued U.S. support for Israel, and articulates the moral imperative to protect Jewish and Palestinian civilians by eliminating Hamas’s terrorist infrastructure.
- Watch the recording of our Movement-wide “Standing in Solidarity with Israel” webinar recorded on October 9, during which we received updates from our southern Israel communities and shared in a moment of communal mourning.
- Journalist Amir Tibon’s personal story – Diplomatic correspondent for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Amir Tibon shares his powerful personal story of survival and rescue.
- Watch URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs’s appearance on Fox, where he spoke on the brutal attacks’ impact on Israel and America.
- View the recording of Our Hearts are in the East, a webinar produced by Sing Unto God on October 9 featuring music, poetry, and prayer with Reform musicians, clergy, and friends.
VIDEO MESSAGES AND STATEMENTS
- Read the statement from Reform leaders thanking President Biden for solidarity with Israel.
- View the statement from Reform leaders responding to Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel.
- Read and watch Rabbi Rick Jacobs’ Shabbat Message of Compassion and Strength
Oseh shalom bim-ro-maiv, Hu ya’a’seh shalom, aleinu v’al kol Yisrael, v’al kol yoshvei teivel, v’imru, amen. May the one who makes peace from up above, bring peace to us, all Israel and all humankind, as we say together, “amen.”