When a deranged and heartless anti-Semite killed 11 worshippers at the Tree of Life Congregation synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA, with an AR15 assault rifle, it had a rippling effect throughout the entire Jewish community around the country. Last week, members of Temple Tikvah in New Hyde Park held a vigil to remember those who died.
“There wasn’t much time to plan,” said Rabbi Randy Sheinberg. “I realized, as I talked to members of my congregation who were here on Saturday morning and to others throughout the day that we needed to come together. We needed to feel ourselves embraced by community and we needed to pray for the victims and their families.”
When asked how to stop anti-Semitism, Sheinberg said there is no one answer to that question.
“There are things we can do, as individuals and as a society,” she said. “As Jews we can speak up when we hear others expressing anti-Semitic views or promulgating Jewish stereotypes. We can also reach out to non-Jews to teach each other about our respective traditions and better appreciate each other.”
One of the things that Sheinberg found most heartening about last week was how many of her non-Jewish friends, colleagues and neighbors have reached out to her in solidarity—making her hopeful for the future.
“On a global level, we need to bring back civil discourse,” said Sheinberg. “Diversity has always been America’s strength. We have thrived on lively debate and differences of opinion, background and culture. If we accept name calling and hate speech as part of normal discourse, then our country has lost its soul.”
If worshippers feel frightened now to go to their synagogue, Sheinberg said the first thing she does is listen to their concerns.
“These are emotional times and it’s normal to have strong feelings,” she explained. “I tell them that I sometimes feel frightened and discouraged too. It’s all about balance. Watch the news, but not all the time. Grieve, but also find joy and celebrate the everyday. Find a community and connect with other people, and take action.”
Sheinberg said that her Jewish faith teaches her that life is sacred and that all humans are created in God’s image.
“Although there is evil in the world, there is also great goodness,” she explained. “We want to join with other people of good conscience to build a world from love and not hate.”
Last week on the steps of the Theodore Roosevelt Legislative and Executive Building, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said that the county stands in unity with the Jewish community.
“We are here to say we are together,” said Curran. “We are with you. Your house of worship should always be a place of safe refuge, where community, love and faith are the focus. We will support our vibrant Jewish Community in every way. The health and safety of our residents is always our number one priority.”
The New Hyde Park Illustrated News remembers the victims: Irving Younger, Melvin Wax, Rose Mallinger, Bernice Simon, Sylvan Simon, Jerry Rabinowitz, Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Daniel Stein, Cecil Rosenthal and David Rosenthal.