Chag sameach. I hope everyone is enjoying the Sukkot holiday. Bummer it has been raining and I have been unable to enjoy my sukkah as much as possible.
Last night, the Jewish Federation hosted Ambassador Dennis Ross at its annual Gala. Ambassador Ross has worked with every Israeli prime minister for the past thirty years and was a political appointee by Presidents Reagan, Bush (41), Clinton, and Obama. For more than twelve years, he played a leading role in shaping U.S. involvement in the Middle East peace process.
He spoke brilliantly about our world today. He shared his insights about the situation in northern Syria with the Kurds and Turkey. He talked about the recent Israel elections and the potential outcomes as a government has still yet to be formed. And he provided very interesting comments about whether President Trump has been good for Israel or not.
Everything he talked about was focused around the role of leaders. Ambassador Ross published his latest book last month, Be Strong and of Good Courage , which highlights four Israeli Prime Ministers who he feels showed extraordinary acts of leadership and strategic judgment to secure Israel’s future. The four are David Ben-Gurion, Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin, and Ariel Sharon. The strength each showed allowed them to prevail. What was just as interesting is why other prime ministers were not included. I am sorry for those who missed hearing what he shared.
At the event, Ted Nelson, our Campaign Chair, talked about the importance of contributing to our Campaign for Community Needs. He concluded with the following:
What will define our generation? Will they speak of us with the same reverence as when we speak of those who came before us?
The shofar that we have heard throughout the month of Elul and the High Holy Days, is a call to each of us. In the words of the Rambam, “We each decide whether to make ourselves learned or ignorant, compassionate or cruel, generous or miserly. No one forces us. No one decides for us; no one drags us along one path or the other. We are responsible for what we are.”
Now is the time to double down on our commitment – to volunteer, to get involved, and to give. Let us write a legacy to be proud of.
We have started our 100 Days of Impact, when we strive to raise as much of our campaign as possible before the end of the calendar year. Your support will make the difference – make your pledge today!
I want to share with you something that I learned late last Friday after my email went out. As you know, a gunman opened fire outside a synagogue in Halle, Germany during Yom Kippur services, killing two people in an anti-Semitic attack. Among those inside the synagogue were 20 Hillel students and three professionals from Hillel in Berlin, who had traveled to Halle for a day of seminars and prayers and to connect with Halle’s small Jewish community.
We are incredibly thankful to report that all the Hillel students and professionals were safe. As Rabbi Rebecca Blady, the executive director of Hillel Germany, described on Facebook, the group sheltered in place in the synagogue until escorted out by police and taken to a local hospital for examination, where they led the Ne'ilah prayer for the community and heard the sound of the shofar. They are back in Berlin.
We did not need a reminder that security has to be a top priority for all of us, but this is a clear indication that we all must do everything in our power to protect our organizations, synagogues, students, members, colleagues and community when they are in our buildings and attending our programs. The security measures in place in Halle prevented the gunman from entering the synagogue and saved the lives of many of those inside. We must remain vigilant as a community and our Director of Community Security, Gene Moss, is available at any time.
As a community, we mourn the two innocent souls murdered in Halle and pray that their memory will be a blessing. At the same time, we recommit ourselves to combatting the evils of anti-Semitism everywhere to ensure safety and security for the entire Jewish community.
And this brings me to a quiet Saturday morning, almost one year ago, when Pittsburgh’s Jewish community suffered the most brutal anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history when a gunman opened fire in the Tree of Life building, taking the lives of 11 innocent people across three Pittsburgh congregations: Dor Hadash, New Light, and Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha. One year later, we have the opportunity to share in a moment to honor their memory. In solidarity, people around the world are being asked to join in taking a moment to Pause with Pittsburgh (an initiative of the Jewish Federations of North America).
On October 27 at 5:00 pm ET, one year to the day since the attack, the Pittsburgh community will join in a public memorial service for a moment of remembrance. Though we cannot be there in person, you are invited to stop – wherever you are – and join together virtually . To participate, you can sign up to receive a text message at 5 pm EST that will contain a video reading of a mourning prayer and the names of the 11 lives lost. Following the prayer, you can tune in to a livestream of Pittsburgh’s public memorial service and submit messages of support and solidarity by text.
Nothing can erase what happened one year ago – but we can choose to stand even stronger and strive even further to demonstrate our resilience and strength as a People. Through the darkness of this tragedy we have seen a wave of solidarity, and we are gratified that it has sparked a movement of renewed unity.