Yesterday, while my wife and I were finishing a week-long vacation in Ashland, Oregon, we received news of the synagogue attack in Pittsburgh, PA. 11 adults were killed while attending worship services -- and celebrating a baby naming -- at the synagogue. Four armed guards were also injured. Every Jewish community around the world is now hunkering down to console each other and to figure out next steps as they consider how to strengthen their security and safety, in the wake of rising anti-Semitic violence around the world.
It's something we can no longer deny, anywhere we live.
Everywhere Jews live, they can become a target Just. Like. That.
And if I add this to everything I'm thinking about the state of our country -- our crumbling Democracy, the president's tacit support of every white supremacist action since he took office, and the growing threat aimed at Jewish communities and their members -- I know that the United States is on the verge of what could be another Civil War. I do not exaggerate when I suggest this possibility. With the ease of access to guns and the growth of independent, anti-government militias, with the growing incivility in public speech and behavior,
We live in a time and place where the value of a human life has become diminished, thanks in no small part to the tirades of hatred against immigrants, people of color, and anyone who is not a white, Christian evangelical Protestant. The new toxicity has spilled over into too many facets of society and daily life to be easily reversed and/or healed in a generation.
This will be a long, ugly and deadly battle for our nation's collective soul. And I suspect I will not live long enough to see things turn around. Because the pendulum swings back and forth, and sometimes it takes a very, very long time to come back.
Pirke Avot teaches us that we may not finish the work, but we must do what we can while we're here.
So I am trying to figure out if there's anything I can do with my gifts to help move the pendulum, and to help my people (yes, the Jews. My people) survive this scary and dangerous time and place in our history.
If you have a suggestion, or want to create an opportunity to partner together towards that end -- to write new music, or teach something new, or create something that will be of use for generations going forward -- please let me know. Reach out to me and let's figure it out together.
In the meantime, please stay safe and hold your loved ones close. Keep living and working and playing and doing and creating, because that is how we can move the pendulum too.
Wishing you all buckets of peace and hope tonight and beyond.
(Below: A new setting of Oseh Shalom, which I wrote with the help of the religious school students and faculty at Congregation of Reform Judaism in Orlando, Florida. We'll sing it together for the first time during my Florida tour later this winter.)