I remember the news on that morning of October 28th, 2018. I spent the day reading the news in fear and disbelief. Other people who were Jewish had been slaughtered simply for being Jewish in their own place of worship. I remember the security increases, the active shooter training, the terror, how could I explain this to my students at religious school if they asked questions. I remember being afraid, not of being Jewish, but of being open about my own religion.
But I also remember the vigils and the rallying cry from a bright and strong community, from our Muslim brothers and sisters. They raised money and came to our services, they offered us their time and love and protection. This unconditional love and support we felt from the Muslim community, not just where I live but around the world, truly helped us to heal and adjust to life after such tragedy.
I remember when I heard the news about the Christchurch Mosque shooting in New Zealand. The Muslim community was shaken at the loss of 50 of their brothers and sisters as well as countless others who were injured. By a man who wanted nothing more than to harm Muslims simply for praying and following their own religion. The pain and this fear are so hard to comprehend. I wish it was impossible for us all to grasp this kind of pain. However, we live in a world where people who are different are people who are feared and targeted. Minorities face scrutiny for existence no matter where in the world they may be.
The Muslim community offered us their hands and their hearts as we mourned and tried to protect ourselves from the rise of anti-semitism. Now, we must offer the same. There are so many ways to protect ourselves from attacks such as these, from tragedies and hatred. Many of them rely on education and outreach that only works if the world is opening to learning and growing. And until that day comes, we have each other. I cried for my brothers and sisters who are affected by this tragedy and me for those who died inside the walls of my temple.
The New Zealand government rushed to create stricter gun laws to prevent such a tragedy from ever happening again. I wish I could say the same for the United States after each of the mass shootings which happen here. But this does not take away from the hole this loss will have left behind. Nothing can make up for what happened.
The best thing to do, what I wish the world did after the Tree of Life shooting in October, is to learn about your neighbor. The three Abrahamic religions are all commanded to love thy neighbor as yourself. Yet we live in a world where actions like this happen every day and are even praised by certain people and certain groups. We cannot truly love each other without understanding each other. Let us take this time to do what needs to be done, to push for a new era of acceptance through understanding, not simply through coexisting.