Building Resilience After Tragedy
Two shocking terror attacks pierced the relative calm of Shabbat in Jerusalem this past weekend. Seven people were shot and killed and three wounded when an East Jerusalem resident opened fire near a synagogue in the Neve Yaakov neighborhood. Hours later on Saturday morning, a 13-year-old boy shot a father and son near the Old City.
Unfortunately, in recent years, when tension or violence occurs in Israel, the fallout has been felt in American Jewish communities. In May 2021, media outlets reported waves of antisemitic events in the US during and immediately following Israel’s Operation Guardian of the Walls. And so, it is not surprising that over the weekend, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia reported that two synagogues in the Greater Philadelphia area received antisemitic phone calls in 24 hours after the Jerusalem attacks, and early Sunday morning, an unknown individual wearing a ski mask ignited and threw a Molotov cocktail at the front door of a New Jersey synagogue, according to the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ.
It’s times like these when our communities must be even more vigilant and hyper aware that safety protocols are adhered to, and that if an individual sees something, they say something. We may not be able to prevent a crisis but we can certainly be prepared to respond swiftly, mitigate harm, and support those impacted.
The way in which we respond to in the aftermath of these events is a critical time for our communities. How does one move forward and prepare for a possible next time? What can we learn from these tragic incidents to protect ourselves in the future?
To begin recovery:
1. Assess the situation and communicate effectively. The first step is to understand the event and communicate to the people affected by it, starting with those involved and expanding to the community as a whole. This means not only providing support to those who need it, but also sharing information about what just happened. It’s not just about evacuating a building. It’s about working with first responders and keeping them informed. It’s about communicating to families that their loved ones are safe and managing stabilization efforts through a clear chain of command with trained leaders.
2. Recover, mitigate, and build trust. The recovery phase begins immediately after the threat to human life has subsided. After those affected are safe and they know they are safe, as community leaders we need to start gaining back the trust of our people. They need to know that the situation was handled effectively and that there were protocols in place. If they need emotional support, psychologists, counselors, and social workers should be provided. Only then can risk mitigation for “the next time” begin, along with improvements to be implemented and lessons learned.
3. Build resiliency. Following an attack such as the one on Friday night, the need to return to routine as soon as possible is extremely important, while also reflecting on what happened and adjusting to make improvements for future events.
Resilience in the face of adversity means building confidence to act and being prepared for unexpected events. In Israel, a country that has faced numerous tragic incidents, the country has learned to take care of each other and respond in times of need. This has made it an ecosystem of resilience. As a former Major of the Home Front Command in the Israeli Defense Forces, and an Israeli citizen, I have witnessed this first hand. American Jewish communities can learn from this model of response, recovery, and return to routine. Response means adhering to protocols and procedures and building an emergency response team and clear chain of command. Recovery is restoring critical community functions and managing stabilization efforts. Returning to routine enables us to build and strengthen resilience.
In the Talmud, it says, “Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh Bazeh.” (All of Israel are responsible for one another.) The ability to strengthen our collective resiliency is within our control. We may not always be able to prevent horrible events, but we have the power to shape our response and strengthen our ability to bounce back. With preparation and support for each other, we can emerge stronger and more united, ready to face what comes next.