All must bear witness

As a rabbi, I often confront challenging decisions about what to share with my congregation, especially concerning sensitive subjects. Recently, I faced one such decision: whether to share graphic images of the Oct. 7 massacre with a B’nai Mitzvah service attended by young families. In this blog post, I want to explore why I ultimately chose to share these images and the importance of bearing witness to difficult truths, even in the presence of young teens.

The decision to share such images is not one to be taken lightly. While our instinct is to shield young people from the harsh realities of the world, there are moments when confronting these truths becomes imperative for fostering a genuine understanding of the barbarity of the enemies Israel faces.

When invited to a screening of “Bearing Witness,” showcasing uncensored footage of the Oct. 7 massacre, I hesitated. Did I want to expose myself and others to such graphic violence? Was sharing what I saw appropriate for a joyous occasion like a B’nai Mitzvah service? Ultimately, believing in the power of truth and the importance of bearing witness convinced me to share these images. In a world where misinformation abounds, confronting uncomfortable truths is crucial.

Moreover, the rise of deep-fake technologies and online distortions have led many to doubt the veracity of events like Oct. 7, echoing the growth of Holocaust denial. As a rabbi, I felt compelled to share what I learned, ensuring that future generations bear witness to the reality of such atrocities.

Regardless of age, we must know what happened on Oct. 7. By understanding these realities, we can counter doubt and denial and work towards a more just world for the innocent. By presenting what truly happened, we can foster open dialogue. Developing a deeper understanding of complex issues and inspiring them to take action for Israel.

Ultimately, the decision to share these images was rooted in a commitment to truth and justice for the victims—some of the paramount values of our Jewish faith. By sharing the realities of Oct. 7, we can honor the memories of those who were lost, educate the next generation, and inspire hope for a future without terrorists like Hamas.

Yes, choosing to share graphic images of Oct. 7 with B’nai Mitzvah services attended by young families was not easy, but it was necessary. I was reminded that confronting uncomfortable truths and bearing witness can inspire meaningful change and work towards a better world for all.

About the Author
Rabbi Brian Strauss is the current senior rabbi of Congregation Beth Yeshurun in Houston, Texas. He is a graduate of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in Los Angeles and the University of Texas at Austin. He has played pivotal roles in various Jewish organizations, including membership in the United Jewish Communities Rabbinic Cabinet and the United Jewish Communities National Young Leadership Cabinet. Additionally, Rabbi Strauss has also served on the Texas State Commission on Holocaust and Genocide and is a member of the prestigious Rabbis Without Borders program, sponsored by the National Jewish Center for Learning & Leadership (CLAL). He sits on the Executive Board of the Zionist Rabbinic Coalition and was appointed to the Joint Placement Commission of the Rabbinical Assembly in 2021. In recognition of his contributions, Rabbi Strauss received an Honorary Doctorate from the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in May 2022. He is also a former president of the Houston Rabbinical Association and a previous board member of the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston, Holocaust Museum Houston, and the University of Texas Hillel. Rabbi Strauss wrote “To Life, To Family, To Me: 6 Keys to a Good Family Life," which can be found on His writings have been featured in national and local publications, reflecting his commitment to sharing Jewish insights with a broader audience. Rabbi Strauss is married to Lisa Shapiro Strauss, a practicing attorney and a former fellow in the Wexner Heritage Program. They are blessed with three adult children.
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