From Pittsburgh to New Zealand, grieving together, standing together

There is another common denominator in the tragedies mentioned above: all of these terrorist murderers were motivated specifically by white supremacist ideology. Although today’s attack took place half-way around the world, we live in a global world, and it seems that the twisted inspiration for this particular attack came specifically from a global network of online extremists. Of course, we have all seen manifestations of white supremacy, racism, Islamophobia, toxic masculinity, abuse of the internet, and the idolatry of the gun closer to home as well…. enough to know that we must stand up to these destructive forces wherever we see them.

The horrific and tragic massacres of 49 Muslim worshipers at prayer in two mosques in New Zealand leave us feeling shocked, grieved, and angry. Our hearts are with the victims and their loved ones, as well as with our local Muslim communities and Muslims worldwide. We recommit to standing with them in the face of hatred.

Sadly, this is not the first time in recent memory that we have seen a massacre in a house of worship: we recall the attacks on Tree of Life in Pittsburgh, Mother Emanuel in Charleston, the Sikh Gurdwara in Oak Creek. While this list is sadly not even exhaustive, it is tragically interfaith (including Jews, Christians, Sikhs, and Muslims). Joining hands with people of all faiths – both to grieve together and to eradicate hatred together – feels like the surest way to achieve a world in which we are all safe to be who we are and to practice our religions freely, without fear.

There is another common denominator in the tragedies mentioned above: all of these terrorist murderers were motivated specifically by white supremacist ideology. Although today’s attack took place half-way around the world, we live in a global world, and it seems that the twisted inspiration for this particular attack came specifically from a global network of online extremists. Of course, we have all seen manifestations of white supremacy, racism, Islamophobia, toxic masculinity, abuse of the internet, and the idolatry of the gun closer to home as well…. enough to know that we must stand up to these destructive forces wherever we see them.

In the wake of this tragedy, we can find opportunities for positive action, too. We remember the outpouring of support our community experienced in the wake of the Pittsburgh massacre, and how validating and comforting it felt to be on the receiving end of gestures of kindness. So too, today, can we reach out to our Muslim neighbors, abroad and closer to home, offering solidarity. We will continue our advocacy work as well – whether towards teaching tolerance in schools, or in gun safety legislation on the national level.

This Shabbat – the Shabbat preceding Purim – is known as Shabbat Zakhor (the Shabbat of Remembrance). The special maftir Torah reading we add recounts the cowardly attack of Amalek on the weakest Israelites. Tradition links Amalek to Haman, the mastermind of the Purim story’s plot to destroy the Jews, motivated by religious hatred and fear of difference. We are commanded us to blot out the memory of Amalek. Today’s crime – a violent attack on people at their most vulnerable, prostrated in prayer – is another echo of the Amalek typology. Once again, we are resolved to blot out the hateful ideologies behind such shocking violence.

Shabbat is always Shabbat, and even in the wake of difficult news – or especially now – it offers us a refuge, an opportunity to catch our breath and connect with each other. May it be a peaceful Shabbat, a Shabbat Shalom, for each of us, and for the whole world.

In grief and solidarity, and in hopes that together we might build a more peaceful future,

Rabbi Rachel Nussbaum and Rabbi Josh Weisman