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Guest Column: Sending condolences to Pittsburgh

We, the ministers of the Greenport Ecumenical Ministries, send our condolences to all our brothers and sisters of the Jewish faith on the occasion of the mass murder of innocent Jewish worshippers at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. We stand in solidarity with our Jewish brethren in condemning the sin of anti-Semitism, the wanton defilement of the sanctity of a place of sanctuary and the utter disregard for the precious gift of our freedom to worship in this country.

We denounce not just the murder that is committed by the use of deadly weapons, but also committed by unbridled hate speech spewed by hateful people. We are reminded of the biblical admonition, “It is not what goes into a person’s mouth that makes them impure; it is what comes out of their mouth” (Matthew 15:11). We implore people of good will to act aggressively to stamp out the demonizing of fellow human beings that has brought about this and so many other senseless murders.

Therefore, it is with total unanimity that we support Rabbi Gadi Capela’s moving address to his congregation in Greenport and to all in the community.

“…the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed.” (Exodus 3:2)

The following is the address sent by Rabbi Gadi Capela to the congregation:

Dear Members and Friends,

Like all of you, I was horrified to learn about the massacre at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life congregation yesterday. The peace and sanctity of our Shabbat was shattered by an evil man with a hateful and hurtful heart, who murdered 3 women and 8 men, simply for being Jewish. A confused soul that chose death over life at the “Tree of Life”.

While the Jewish people tragically gained 11 more martyrs, America as a whole lost another piece of its sanctuary. 11 people were gunned down in a house of worship on the Shabbat the Jewish people in the whole world decided to come together. The Shabbat Project brought over 40 people to dinner at our shul the night before. It is the Shabbat we learn about our father Abraham urging guests to enter his tent and rest from their long journey. It is especially chilling to think that the massacre was taking place at the very same time we were reading the Torah. We learned that we are a faith established upon the foundation of hospitality, and that we ought to continue to keep our doors open.

The murderer’s premeditated attack that was accompanied by the remark “all Jews must die,” is another reminder that we have not yet reached the Promised Land; we are still on our way out of Egypt — for more than 4,000 years, when all types of Pharaohs loathe the idea of Jews flourishing in the land. But as long as we continue to hold on to the Tree of Life — the Torah, Judaism will continue to be like the Burning Bush — it may be burning, yet never consumed.

While we mourn the loss of 11 men and women, in what believed to be the worst attack ever on the Jewish community on American soil, let’s pray to God that the families of the deceased be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem. Let’s pray to God that the wounded, most of them first responders that prevented an even worse tragedy, will fully recover. A special prayer goes to Rabbi Jeffrey Meyers, who is also my colleague in the Conservative Judaism Movement.

While we are reminded that anti-Semitism is on the rise in America, along with other hate crimes, let’s continue to listen to God speaking to us from the burning bush. “…those who hope in God will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”  (Isaiah 40:31)