A Culture of Joy and Solidarity

Rabbi Rubenstein On The Tree Of Life Shootings

Thank you all for being here this evening. My heart is with you from New York.

Your presence together this evening is not just an act of solidarity. It is an act of resistance.

The shooter and the culture he represents want us to be isolated and afraid. They want all of our energy to be on the defensive, hunkering down, making ourselves smaller. They want us to disappear. This is true whether the target is a black church, a queer nightclub or a synagogue.

No matter who wants us to disappear, no matter who is targeted, we defy them best by showing up for each other, by gathering allies together and by being in solidarity with all marginalized people, all people of good faith. We defy them by being active for our vision of a better world.

We defy them by living large.

Fortunately, the strategies by which we defy them happen to be the same strategies by which we keep our own souls and our community healthy and, in this community, the strategies by which we show our children that being Jewish means many things. But being a victim is not one of them.

Our children — all Jewish children — need to see us modeling a culture of joy and solidarity. So if you are Jewish and this is the first time you’ve been to synagogue in a while, I want to encourage you to do one thing this week that is a positive, joyful identification with Judaism. Light Shabbat candles. Come to services. Show that we are not just Jewish in reaction to something.

To all of the allies here tonight: Thank you. You help us be brave. Thank you especially to Dan Bryant, who has been a stalwart ally to this community for decades. Thank you to the families and individuals — some of whom I did not meet — who rushed here with flowers yesterday as soon as they heard the news.

If I can make one request of you allies beyond what you have already done, it is that you show your solidarity outside of this building as well. Challenge anti-Semitic rhetoric — and there is plenty of it — in the public sphere.

There is so much work to be done. We can only hope to do it if we take good care of ourselves and each other. I am sorry not to be with you right now. Please do reach out to me if you are needing extra support. I will be back in town on Wednesday.

As Rabbi Nachman of Breslov taught: The whole entire world is a very narrow bridge; the essential thing is not to give in to fear.

Thank you all for refusing to give in to fear. May we stay courageous together.

Rabbi Ruhi Sophia Motzkin Rubenstein was at a conference in New York. Her comments were read by Jeff Kirtner, first vice president of Temple Beth Israel.

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