Following are remarks by JFS CEO Rabbi Will Berkovitz given at a vigil at Chabad Lubavitch of the Pacific Northwest to stand in solidarity with the Jewish Community of Poway,California after the tragic events of April 27, 2019.
At the closing of Passover, on Shabbat, the day of rest, once again our joy was shattered. Once again we witness an act of antisemitic hate directed at a community in prayer. Once again a community in prayer is transformed into a people in mourning simply for being Jewish. Simply for being.
While the killer attacked the Chabad in Poway, it was an assault not just on another Jewish community, it was an attack on the entire Jewish community. But it is more than that. Each of these acts of hate destabilizes the foundations of our country.
Today we give honor and stand in solidarity with the Jewish community in Poway. We offer support to the victims, their families and friends. We remember Lori Gilbert Kaye (z”l) who was murdered in a place of sanctuary.
When we lift our eyes from where our help comes. We see beyond the mountains and we see the face of an eshet chayil – a righteous woman who sadly, like many of us, I did not have the honor of knowing.
We see the face of Lori Gilbert-Kaye z”l who did not wait for help to come. She did not run. She did not try and hide. From what I understand, she stood up and shielded Rabbi Goldstein, another human soul, from bullets and death with the only thing she had. Her body and her spirit.
At times the essence of our lives are distilled to one defining moment. Lori’s one fearless act will stand for eternity as a testament of both love of tradition and defiance in the face of evil, cowardice and hate.
There really is no good word for sacrifice in the Jewish tradition. The word we use is korban, which shares a root with the word karov – close. Let’s think of her act not as one of sacrifice, but of a korban – a truly drawing close. A drawing close to the best of our humanity, our tradition and to God.
But our remembrances will not suffice. It is left to us, the living, to also draw close. To make our choices — our decisions. We need to realize what has always been true – that which divides us is an illusion. There is no survival in separation. We must find inspiration and strength in Lori’s action. We must become karov, we must draw close to each other in humility, in compassion and vulnerability.
Together we must stand against this rise of hate. We must call it out everywhere for what it is. What it is doing to our society. And the real threat it poses to our children’s future.
For as long as people and places of worship are turned into targets of hate, we will not be truly free. We will all be left wandering in the desert and our redemption will not be complete.
Our freedom will only come when we make choices that truly draw us closer as we did long ago at Sinai. Let us remember it was in the desert after that great Exodus when out of many we became one.
And my deepest prayer for us tonight is that we will each use our unique voices, and those beautiful voices will once again, rise to heaven together, become entwined and become one. And that in oneness we will all find our freedom. And may those who grieve find peace.