I want to ask you to do something in response to the tragedy in Pittsburgh. Let me explain.
I spent last weekend with the United Synagogue’s Tribe trip to Poland. This is an educational trip for Year 12 students, which, this year, had 86 participants.
The group visited Warsaw, Lublin, Majdanek, Lizhensk, Lancut, Krakow and Auschwitz. We not only retraced the tragedies that beset our brothers and sisters a little over 70 years ago, but caught a glimpse of the rich culture and thriving religious life that the same people experienced before the Holocaust destroyed it.
Inevitably, there were many conversations within the group as to how humans can subject each other to such horrors, why we, as Jews, were the victims and how it is possible that such mass murders could be repeated.
It was even more shocking, therefore, that after we had spent a wonderful Shabbat in Krakow where we ate, sang, danced and prayed as a group, we heard the tragic news from Pittsburgh.
I have never been to Pittsburgh, let alone been to the Tree of Life Synagogue, but we cried for them because they are family.
As Jews, we are not just bound by a common religion. Our heritage – the Torah portions we are reading right now – dictates that we are one family. Antisemites will never understand this. They can hate us but we will never go away. What we have witnessed over the last few days emphasises that you can try to erase us from the face of the Earth but we will come back stronger. It may not be Pesach time but we have been singing Vehi she’amda: each generation they may try to destroy us but the Almighty is there to support us and we will get stronger.
With this in mind, I want to invite you to join me in a show of strength this Shabbat. The ask is simple: come to shul this Shabbat.
11 innocent men and women, parents and grandparents, were mowed down by hatred last week. As the Chief Rabbi said, the more hatred we face, the more relentless our pursuit of the paths of peace will be. So, wherever you are, whatever your community, join thousands of your fellow Jews in shul this Shabbat.
We must all remain vigilant. We are blessed by an outstanding organisation in CST, our selfless, committed local security volunteers and supportive police forces. Please take the opportunity to thank them for what they do, take time to understand the security protocols in your synagogue, and if you are able, take part in security training.
On behalf of the whole United Synagogue family, may I wish chayim aruchim, a long life to all those touched by loss, a refuah sheleima, a speedy recovery, to all those injured and our sincere gratitude to the brave first responders.