I write to you all in pain, devastated by the terrible act of terrorism in Orlando that took place over Shavuot, the festival where we celebrate receiving the great gift of Torah— a gift that would teach our people, and the world, ethics, morality, and holiness. A gift either ignored, misunderstood, or butchered, by the shooter who will remain unnamed.

I am devastated by the swift and unfair end to 49 innocent people, and the pain incurred by so many others, physical and emotional.

I am devastated by yet another act of hatred upon the LGBT community.

I am devastated that once again we suffer because certain weapons were so easily available to someone so clearly a risk.

I am frightened that many will turn in hatred and prejudice towards the many moderate Muslims in this country who abhor this kind of violence and bloodshed— the kind who rushed during their fasts during this holy month of Ramadan to give blood and help save more lives.

I am frightened that we all, in fear of the outsider and in fear of terror, will turn inward and be a little more suspect, a little less tolerant, and a lot less welcoming, to those outside our immediate communities.

And I am frightened that once again, in the face of such awful killing, we as a nation will do nothing except offer prayers and good will.

Let us certainly pray, for healing of the injured and the surviving family members. But let us also remember the important rabbinic attitude toward miracles: “No one should depend upon a miracle to save him. If a miracle has saved him once, he must not depend upon a similar rescue a second time” (Zohar i, 111b). We may certainly hope for miracles, but we must never count on them. If we wish to see a change in this world and in our nation, we must make it happen ourselves.

Here’s what we can do:

First, join us this Friday night for Pride Shabbat at 8 pm as we celebrate Pride month with our partners, New Jersey’s Lesbian and Gay Havurah. We will rejoice in welcoming Shabbat together as already planned, and we will not let our voices of unity and support be quelled.

Second, pay attention to the many ways we can work in the fight to ensure greater gun safety from our Social Action Committee, who will be sharing more information over the coming weeks. Do whatever you can to help stop this needless violence.

Third, reach out to your moderate Muslim neighbors in solidarity and support, acknowledging our refusal to let the extreme and violent speak for an entire people.

Fourth, be watchful and vigilant. Unfortunately, we live in a time where safety and security is not guaranteed. Always keep an eye out for something unexpected or someone of concern, and if you see something, say something. But, do not let caution become prejudice and fear. We must be sure to remain the open, warm, and welcoming community we are proud to be.

And last, after these four acts, let us pray, for the victims and all those in need of healing.

For Orlando, For the USA

[By Alden Solovy,]

There was blood everywhere.

Forty-nine dead. And blood everywhere.

Author of life,

Source and Creator,

Grant a perfect rest under Your tabernacle of peace

To the victims of the massacre

In Orlando, Florida,

Forty-nine people whose lives were cut off by violence,

In a rampage of aggression beyond understanding,

Targeted by vehemence and hate.

May their souls be bound up in the bond of life,

A living blessing in our midst.

May they rest in peace.

There was blood everywhere.

Fifty-three wounded. And chaos.

God of justice and mercy,

Send healing to those wounded in this assault.

Fifty-three people who were

Struck by brutality.

Remember all the survivors of this attack,

Witnesses of shock, horror and dismay.

Ease their suffering and release their trauma

So that they recover lives of joy and wonder.

Grant them Your shelter and solace,

Blessing and renewal.

Grant them endurance to survive,

Strength to rebuild,

Faith to mourn,

And courage to heal.

Yes, there is blood everywhere.

Columbine. Virginia Tech. Fort Hood.

How much more blood will be spilled?

Sandy Hook. Killeen. San Yisidro.

When will sanity return?

Aurora. Charleston. Washington Navy Yard. Red Lake.

When will the U.S. confront this scourge of violence?

There is blood everywhere.

God of love and shelter,

Remember the families and friends

Of all the dead and the wounded

In Orlando and throughout the U.S.

Remember them with comfort and consolation.

Grant them Your protection,

Your wholeness and healing.

Heavenly Guide,

Put an end to anger, hatred and fear

And lead us to a time when

No one will suffer at the hand of another,

Speedily, in our day.

Ose shalom bimromav, Hu ya’ase shalom aleinu v’al kol yisrael v’al kol b’nei adam, v’imru Amein.

May the One who makes peace in the heavens make peace for us, for all of Israel, and for all of humankind. And let us say, Amen.

Rabbi David Z. Vaisberg

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davidzvaisberg Written by:

David Vaisberg, originally from Montreal and Mississauga, Canada, serves as Rabbi at Temple Emanu-El of Edison, NJ and lives in Metuchen, NJ with his family.

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