In the aftermath of the massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, our Hebrew Center community is in deep mourning. We are so grateful to the Island community for reaching out to us and joining us in our prayers for healing. We invite you to pray together at the Hebrew Center Friday, Nov. 2, at 5:30 pm. We pray for the families of those who were killed. We pray for the healing of those who were shot and wounded, including four brave police officers who put their lives on the line to save others. We pray for the healing of the fabric of this nation, which seems to be unraveling before our eyes.
Yet that fabric is also being strengthened. It is strengthened with each sign of unity and love we put on our houses and buildings. It is strengthened with each hour we dedicate to an organization devoted to justice. It is strengthened whenever we do acts of kindness for one another, whenever we expand the “I and mine” to “we and ours,” whenever we live out the teaching that each of us is created in the image of God.
The Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, who died in 1810, taught, “The whole world is nothing but a narrow bridge — the main thing is not to be afraid.” Fear can be an important emotion, but fear that is stoked and exploited can be devastating. F.D.R. was a wise and responsible leader when he said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” And yet today, some leaders use fear to divide us and unmoor us in order to win elections or increase their power. We are told to fear immigrants, to fear transgender people, to fear Jews, to fear people of color, to fear those who disagree with us. Such fear, magnified by hateful words, is bound to lead to hateful acts.
And so it is our task to counter such fear with faith, to counter hateful words with words of compassion, and to counter hateful acts with acts of kindness. And there is another thing we can do — vote. We can vote for leaders who are committed to the dignity and safety of all. And in Massachusetts on Nov. 6, we can also vote for a ballot question, Question 3, which affirms civil rights for all. Voting “yes” on Question 3 is voting yes on the dignity of all. Voting yes on Question 3 is rejecting the politics of fear and hatred. What does that have to do with Pittsburgh? Everything.
Caryn Broitman is rabbi of the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center. She graduated from Harvard University in the Comparative Study of Religion, and received her rabbinical ordination from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.