One week after the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Va., Nashville’s rabbis spoke to their congregations.
Here are their thoughts, gathered before Shabbat on Aug. 18:
Chabad of Nashville
Rabbi Yitzchok Tiechtel
Beneath the surface of every terrible experience there lies the opportunity to grow and increase in goodness. Every step back can—and must—become the impetus for a giant leap forward.
Chabad’s Nashville Tefillin Campaign encourages Jewish men to put on tefillin—a sacred pair of black leather boxes containing Hebrew parchment scrolls.
When one puts on tefillin, they’re connecting to the Infinite, fulfilling G-d’s will and reminding themselves to be a better person emphasizing the infinite potential within every individual.
Tefillin is just one part of our broader effort to dispel darkness with light and make Judaism accessible to the local community, including distributing Shabbat candles to women, affixing mezuzahs to doorposts and encouraging the giving of charity.
The fact the G-d created each of us, means that we each, no matter race or creed, are extremely important to Him and we each have a unique purpose in this world, that no else can fulfill. When we recognize that, we will come to appreciate the immense importance and value of each and every individual — especially if they are different from us. I encourage all people of goodwill to add in goodness and kindness, to those around you–and to people you may have never met.
There is no room for HATE speech, period. Beyond statements, beyond marching – Action! Apolitical, academical, political, religious – right, left, center – stop yourself EVERY time you think the word HATE! and find a more truthful and healthy word to think the same thought.
Enjoy the inner peace and good energy output you create.
Rabbi Laurie Rice
I would say that one thing you can do is recall the principle of Hillel: “What is hateful to you, do not do to another.” Replace hate with love. Fill your heart with kindness and remember the words of Leviticus which instruct that we are not to hate our fellow in our heart. Then call your congressional reps and tell them what you expect as a citizen so that they hear your voice. Spread love, speak kindly, and care for others passionately.
Congregation Sherith Israel
Rabbi Saul Strosberg
After tragedies like Charlottesville, people of conscience want to do something. They want to respond. They want to help. They don’t want to stand idly by. Judaism gives us two responsibilities in this situation: to bring comfort to those who have suffered, and to bring to justice those who have done wrong. My concern is that much of what people and organizations have said has done neither. At a certain point, talk becomes unfruitful. Speaking up for the sake of speaking up is not enough. Our actions and our words need to make a difference. Here are a few examples that could make a difference:
• Visiting, calling or sending notes to the families and communities of the victims.
• Sending a check to support increased security of the Charlottesville Jewish community.
• Going online to combat hate-messages and hate-groups.
It’s my hope that all who feel moved to do something, follow the Jewish ideal of not just standing up, but thinking through clearly how our words and actions will bring about positive change.
The Temple: Congregation Ohabai Sholom
Rabbi Mark Schiftan
Rabbi Shana Goldstein Mackler
Cantor Tracy Fishbein
Rabbi Michael Shulman
The events of this past weekend in Charlottesville are shocking and abhorrent.
As a collective Jewish community we have been shaken, both by the acts of violence and by the hateful rhetoric spewed by white supremacist groups who organized and led the march and rally that claimed the life of three people.
We grieve for the three human lives lost. We pray for those who are wounded and hurting still.
And we stand together in defense of the values and ethics we uphold as Americans and as Jews.
Even more, most of us – perhaps even all of us – are deeply troubled by the incendiary remarks that led to these events, as well as those made subsequent to these events, which tried to defend and equivocate the actions of those who participated in them.
Let us be clear: There is no moral equivalency when it comes to hate-filled, bigoted, or biased speech or action. There are not many sides to this. There is only right versus wrong, and good versus evil.
To that end, we condemn, in the strongest terms, the hate speech, the violence and the terror brought about by those claiming white supremacy.
We want you to know that during these tense times, we are actively engaged in a number of meaningful responses on several fronts: First, we are taking the steps necessary to ensure the safety and security of all those who enter our building. We do this in concert and regular communication and coordination with law enforcement. You may notice some of these measures. Some of these measures may purposely be done behind the scenes. Please help us be vigilant: If you see something unusual, please say something to our staff. …
May all of us together move toward justice and peace, as we work toward healing our nation.
(Editor’s note: The message to congregants listed events that were to take place before readers would receive the September Observer and were deleted for that reason.)
West End Synagogue
Rabbi Joshua Kullock
We don’t need to dig too deep in our history to discover the lessons of many of the catastrophes that fell upon our people in the past. We know what happens when bigots seize power. We know what happens when democracy crumbles and a free and independent press is no longer to be found. We know who wins and who loses when the haters are emboldened and enabled. And we know how to distinguish between paranoia and real concerns for the well-being of our country.
But, above all of those lessons, we also know that the only way to act is by proactively raising our voices, by defending the causes that we care about, by committing to vote in the elections and by taking responsibility for our decisions.
Healing will require the strength to embrace and accept the differences of opinion among ourselves, while making sure that racists are held accountable by the rule of law.
Healing will require that we hold our moral ground, that we keep fighting for that which is worth fighting, and that we remain committed to working on behalf of this Nation which, under one G-d, will continue to stand indivisible procuring liberty and justice for all. •