Dear SHA Family,
Our week did not start out well. As Shabbat came to an end here in Seattle many of us became aware of an unfolding situation in Texas. I wrote this piece and submitted it to the local press. I have not heard back from them – yet. I share it below with you. Your thoughts always welcome.
Mazel Tov to Debbie Johnston and Darren Loucas on the Bar Mitzvah of their son Jacob this Shabbat!
What should we be thinking as we prepare to go to synagogue this Saturday, this Shabbat – Sabbath morning? Should we be reviewing our security training? Wondering if the guard showed up? Telling ourselves that what happened in Colleyville is anomaly, as was, Poway, as was Pittsburgh…? And what about our children; what do we tell them with images from last Saturday still fresh in our minds?
By now we all know, Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker threw a chair at the terrorist and made a run for it with the two others being held hostage in his synagogue in Colleyville, Texas this Shabbat, this Saturday. I would bet that that was the first time in his life that he threw a chair at someone. In his CBS interview he comes across as a gentle soul, serving his congregation with love and intentionality. That love and care moved him to open the door in a gracious act of generosity, to help a fellow human being. He was rewarded for that gesture with violence and threats to his life and to life of three of his congregants. He describes the moment in prayer, as his back was turned - hearing the alarming click of a gun. He knew right away that the situation was taking a menacing turn.
You too must befriend the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt, Deuteronomy 10:19
This Biblical exhortation is taken seriously by the Jewish community. Our doors open, as did the doors of the tent of our ancestors Abraham and Sarah; their tent doors are said to have been open on four sides.
We teach our children this practice from when they are very young. We construct that tent yearly, the week that we read the Torah story of the radical hospitality that they offered to the three strangers. A sign is placed over those tents that we fashion; “Welcome to Abraham and Sarah’s Tent”. Teachers show the students the four doors; open to all directions; ready to welcome guests from far away. We invite our children to play-act how they will welcome the stranger – how they will open one of the four doors to let outsiders in. What shall we teach them now?
Jewish Family Service, here in Seattle, actively welcome refugees from all over the world. This fall intensely those from Afghanistan, in response to the humanitarian crisis brought on by the fall of Kabul. A representative from JFS was our speaker at our very first Middle School assembly this year. After months of no guest speakers on account of Covid – we made an exception. How could we not share this new pressing information with our students? We Jews know what it is to seek refuge. My own parents found refuge here in America, as did my in-laws. We teach our students, as we were welcomed, so must we welcome. What should we teach them now?