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Reflections on the Events in Pittsburgh
Posted 10/27/2018 10:00PM

October 27, 2018
19 Cheshvan 5779


This morning, in synagogues around the world, we read one of the most powerful Biblical narratives attesting to the preciousness of each individual human life. Today's haftarah, taken from the book of II Kings, tells the story of Elisha the prophet, who prophesied that the barren Woman of Shunem would bear a child. When the child later died tragically, Elisha—unwilling to bear the death of even one soul—miraculously revived him.

In the cruelest of ironies, during the very moment at which we were reading this haftarah, an unspeakable horror was taking place at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh. We stand in stunned solidarity this evening with the families of the victims, the congregants of Tree of Life, our fellow Jews around the world, and all people who pray for peace in our society. We also express our most sincere gratitude and appreciation for the first responders of Pittsburgh.


The synagogue—our place of greatest safety and solace—should never be transformed into a place of fear and terror. Even if they have no personal connection to Pittsburgh, our own children are likely to be affected by today's events, as they hear more about what took place. As details emerge in the coming days, we will discuss among our faculty and staff how best to help our students, in an age-appropriate manner, process what has happened and continue to find comfort in the sanctity of our shuls.


Of course, when we learn of a despicable hate crime of this magnitude, our thoughts naturally turn to the safety and security of our own community. We are deeply grateful for our strong partnerships with our local police departments and our private security advisors, all of whom keep watch over Schechter Westchester with exceptional dedication and professionalism. We are in close contact with them, as well as with our other local and national intelligence networks, and while there is absolutely no indication of any specific threat to our community, you should expect to see an enhanced security presence on our campuses in the coming days.


Immediately following the recitation of the haftarah this morning, we recited Yekum Purkan, the prayer for the welfare of the congregation. We prayed that all members of our congregation—and every congregation—be spared any distress and danger. We will recite this prayer with elevated fervency on coming Shabbatot, keeping in our hearts the victims of today's senseless tragedy and their families.


May God comfort all of us, as we are all mourners tonight.



Dr. Michael Kay
  Rabbi Harry Pell
Head of School      Associate Head of School

These words by Rabbi Yishmael, which reflect the essence of our mission, are found in Pirkei Avot. They advise us to lead lives filled with learning, teaching, preservation of our heritage, and social action.

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