This past Wednesday, as our vice president for strategic advancement sat down to talk shop over lunch with the president of Kehillat Israel (the Reconstructionist congregation in Pacific Palisades, California), both of their cell phones began beeping with news alerts of a mass shooting taking place just east of them in San Bernardino. They looked at each other: Again? So close? What else to say?
There are far too many of these types of events. We mourn the victims who are dead, we stand in support of their families, and we pray for full and speedy recoveries for all who have been injured. While it may become increasingly difficult to mourn an ever-increasing number of victims from this sort of horrific violence, we strive ourselves, and we implore you, not to harden your heart. Take a moment today to think about these victims and their families as unique and precious individuals, not just as a mere few among countless.
We know that 14 people are dead, 21 wounded; that the perpetrators were heavily armed with guns, ammunition and pipe bombs; and that there is emerging information that this assault could have been a terrorist attack associated with ISIS. While we all want to learn more about this event and the motives of the perpetrators, perhaps to help us process the situation, none of us will ever really understand it. We can and will talk about laws and policies that might make it more difficult for individuals such as these to carry out such violence. But in the immediate aftermath, the words that seem most important are these: bring those whom you love closer; tighten your bonds to your community; and deepen your understanding of and appreciation for the wisdom of our shared Jewish tradition, that has been refined over the millennia to help us and our people cope with the incomprehensible.
Hanukkah falls at the darkest time of the year. Light wanes and each day is darker than the one that came before. This year in particular, keenly aware of the darkness that clouds our world, let us rededicate ourselves to bringing light.
Rabbi Deborah Waxman
Chair, Board of Governors