Montgomery Rabbi Jacob Best Adler is joining Jewish leaders nationwide in asking Jews and non-Jews to fill the pews this weekend to demonstrate resilience in the face of terror. The national movement, #ShowUpForShabbat, is in response to those trying to disrupt Jewish life in America.
Community members wishing to express solidarity should show up at Congregation Kehilat Shalom in Belle Mead for Shabbat on Friday, Nov. 2, at 7 pm. Montgomery teens will lead the service, followed by oneg (refreshments and schmoozing). All are welcome.
“If you have a Jewish friend, and if you have not yet already, reach out to that Jewish friend,” Rabbi Adler asked 50 Montgomery residents who had gathered in the Harlingen Reformed Church for the monthly Montgomery Mosaic meeting. Mosaic is a grassroots community group dedicated to overcoming prejudice and discrimination in the Montgomery area through dialogue and education. Established in light of a 2018 bias crime in Montgomery, the group is affiliated with the national Not In Our Town organization.
“It’s a very scary time to be Jewish, right now,” Adler said. “My wife and I had to explain to our son, who is not yet four, what bullets are, what guns are, as a way of explaining why we were going to a vigil. My son thought guns were pretend.
“We have not yet told him this incident took place in a synagogue because the synagogue is where he goes to school. It’s where we go on Friday nights. It’s a place where he feels a sense of connection to many, and love, and we don’t want to take that away from him. We don’t want to introduce that fear of being Jewish, of being in a Jewish space, of being with people who care about each other and love each other.”
The rabbi said the shooter targeted the Pittsburgh Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue because of its participation in the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS). Founded in 1881 to provide resources and support to immigrants who were fleeing oppression and pogroms in Eastern Europe, HIAS continues today.
“HIAS has expanded its reach beyond simply Jews,” Adler said. “Our teaching and culture tells us not to fear the stranger, not to shun the stranger. It tells us to welcome the stranger. Love the stranger.”
According to national news accounts, the perpetrator posted hateful messages about HIAS on Gab.com (a social network that bills itself as a “free speech” alternative to Facebook). He then entered the Pittsburgh synagogue, yelled ‘All Jews must die,’ and killed 11 people during Shabbat service on Saturday, Oct 27.
“Incidents like this are designed to provoke fear, and to make us distrustful of each other,” Adler said. “They are designed to make us feel unsafe in the safe places. The most important thing for us to do in these moments is to not give in to that fear; not to feel like we need to cloister ourselves away; and not to silo ourselves and separate ourselves from are community but to come together.”
Adler added, “We want to make sure our buildings and holy spaces are filled with people who are bringing love and support and want to help continue to create community. The best way to respond to this is with love, compassion and caring, and by reaching out across differences. So please join us, and get to know our community, because we are you.”
Montgomery Township Committeewoman Sadaf Jaffer, who founded Montgomery Mosaic, spoke after the rabbi, noting that Mosaic’s first two meetings were at Kehilat Shalom. She said it is “a beautiful, welcoming space.”
She read a poem titled, “What They Did Yesterday Afternoon,” by Warsan Shire, who writes primarily about the immigrant experience, saying that she choose it because it “relates to the issue of solidarity and how we all suffer when hate festers.”
they set my aunts house on fire
i cried the way women on tv do
folding at the middle
like a five pound note.
i called the boy who use to love me
tried to ‘okay’ my voice
i said hello
he said warsan, what’s wrong, what’s happened?
i’ve been praying,
and these are what my prayers look like;
i come from two countries
one is thirsty
the other is on fire
both need water.
later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
where does it hurt?
Congregation Kehilat Shalom
253 Belle Mead-Griggstown Road
Belle Mead, NJ 08502
Information on Mosaic: Montgomery Mosaic: A NIOT Affiliate
Information on the Show Up for Shabbat Service http://www.kehilatshalomnj.org/event/join-us-showupforshabbat/