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From Rabbi Hayon

October 29, 2018

These past few days have been a time of pain, sadness, and fear for our community. The news about the gruesome murders in Pittsburgh has led us to the challenging work of grieving this violent tragedy: we have held our loved ones close, we have had difficult conversations with our children, and we have offered prayers that alternate between hope and desperation.


Now that the community vigils have ended, and the shock has subsided a bit, new questions are beginning to arise. Many members of our community have come to us, asking, “What do we do now?” Today, I want to offer you three specific, concrete actions you can take in the aftermath of the tragedy, as a tangible way of reinforcing our values and bolstering the strength of our Jewish community: Be kind, give tzedakah, and show up for Shabbat this weekend.


1. Be kind. This a hard time in our nation calls upon all of us to be kinder and gentler to each other. Let’s make a special effort today and in the days ahead to be more patient and understanding, even at the times that kindness feels most elusive. This week is not a good time for arguing politics or focusing on the things that divide us. Instead, try to remember that everyone’s nerves are frayed and emotional resources throughout the community are depleted. These days, an extra measure of kindness will go a long way.

2. Give tzedakah. Our tradition tells us that giving charity is an important way to remember the deceased, and the causes we support in their memory will allow their values to live on. Two charitable organizations I suggest for this week’s donations are the fund that has been approved to support for the victims’ families in Pittsburgh and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society [HIAS]. Many of our relatives were assisted by HIAS when they immigrated to America, and today HIAS remains the foremost Jewish nonprofit advocating for immigrants and refugees who yearn to make their home in the “land of the free.” Moreover, as it has been alleged that the Pittsburgh shooter was agitated by Jewish commitment to immigrants’ rights, your gift to HIAS allows this good work to continue, in defiance of violence and hatred.


3. Show up for Shabbat. In recognition of the unique pain that comes from murders committed at a synagogue, our friends at the AJC have launched an initiative to encourage people to redouble their commitment and their physical presence at the synagogues which form the most critical foundation of Jewish life. Your willingness to “show up for Shabbat” demonstrates that we will not allow violence or hatred to undermine our Jewish identity. This Friday night, November 2, I want to encourage you to spend your evening with us at Emanu El. Tot Shabbat services for families with young children will begin with a dinner at 5:45 p.m. followed by a service at 6:30 p.m. Our main congregational service will begin at 6:00 p.m. In difficult times, the most valuable thing we have is the closeness of our community, so we will also be offering an Oneg Shabbat after services so our entire congregational family can spend time together.


As always, the full clergy team will be available over the days ahead if you or someone you love needs a listening ear. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at any time.


Until then, I want to thank you again for being a part of this marvelous and resilient Jewish community of ours. I’ll see you at Shabbat.


Rabbi Oren J. Hayon


October 27, 2018

Today was a dark and heart-rending day for all of us. Our community has been shaken to its core by this morning’s unthinkable murders in Pittsburgh. Both as Jews and as Americans, we are sadly well-acquainted with violence and bigotry, but the horror of this crime is especially shocking. For an anti-Semitic terrorist to take the lives of innocent people at prayer, during the tranquility and sweetness of Shabbat, is an unprecedented event in our nation which must be grieved with seriousness and intention.


This evening, our entire congregational community is united in our desire for comfort and healing. We mourn alongside the victims’ families and loved ones, and we hope to share with you very soon about how our Jewish community will be responding to the spiritual needs of our congregational family during this very dark time. Until then, we take comfort from the words of the Kaddish, which reassures us that God, who is the Maker of Peace on high, will in time bring peace and wholeness to this suffering and fragmented world.


As always, our congregation’s leadership is working quickly and in close collaboration with our security and law enforcement partners to ensure your safety and peace of mind, and our full clergy team stands ready to offer emotional and pastoral care as needed. Tonight, the entire Jewish community remains strongly united to our vision of peace and goodwill, even as we share these bitter tears of grief and loss.


May God grant peace to those who mourn and comfort the bereaved among us. Amen.


Rabbi Oren J. Hayon


Wed, March 20 2019 13 Adar II 5779