Jewish Federations Across North America Mourn, Heal, and Prepare for an Insecure Future
Yesterday in an off-the record briefing held for hundreds of Jewish Federation leaders, Meryl Ainsman, Board of Trustees Chair and Jeff Finkelstein, President and CEO of The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh discussed the stress and trauma of the past week after a gunman opened fire in a local synagogue killing 11 people.
“This was a horrific tragedy. This was a slaughter. A slaughter of Jews,” Finkelstein said on the call.
“Motivating overtaxed staff, supporting an ailing community and operating on the frontlines of a global call for action, we could not be prouder of our Pittsburgh Federation led by Meryl Ainsman and Jeff Finkelstein,” said Jerry Silverman, President & CEO, The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA).
“The anti-Semitism and xenophobia that led to this unspeakable bloodshed while Jews are engaged in peaceful worship – or anywhere in the world under any circumstances – must be condemned in no uncertain terms by leadership and the general public alike. Hatred and vitriol must have no quarter in any aspect of our country, for they not only contravene the sacred promise of America; they violate the moral and ethical core of our society,” said Silverman and Mark Wilf, Chair of the JFNA Board of Trustees, in a statement.
Throughout North America, Jewish Federations and other Jewish groups are asking questions about security, but these questions are not new. In 2004, Jewish Federations created SCN (the Secure Community Network) to address the Jewish community’s unique security needs. Today there are nearly 35 full-time Jewish community security directors throughout the United States. Thanks to SCN, last year the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh participated in an active-shooter response training that Finkelstein credits with preventing a worse horror. Read more about Memphis’ Regional Security Director, Stuart Frisch.
“JFNA is proud of the outpouring of support and solidarity from the 147 Jewish Federations and 300 Network communities across North America, as well as from the entirety of communities, organizations, and the State of Israel. We see this as a moment of great unification of purpose,” read the Wilf-Silverman statement.
That’s why JFNA decided to call for a #SolidarityShabbat. Partnering with the AJC’s #StandUpShabbat and the ADL’s #NeverIsNow virtual vigil, we are offering our communities across the continent a way to heal and mourn together. To learn more visit jewishfederations.org.
Below are statements and activities from Jewish Federations around the country:
“It’s been a rough few days here, as I’m sure it has for everyone. I wanted to share with you that we had a community service last night with hundreds of people—Hindus, Muslims, people from Black churches, the inter-faith Alliance, Peoria Proud, and many elected officials. It was really incredible and made us all realize what a special community we have.” Susan Katz, Executive Director, Jewish Federation of Peoria
“We can respond by withdrawing from the community, by letting that fear define our choices and shunning activities that define us as Jews. Or we can respond by coming together to denounce bigotry and anti-Semitism and to assert ourselves as proud Jews.” Michael Greenberg, Chair, Board of Trustees, Jewish Community Partners of Memphis
“The Jewish community of North Louisiana stands with our neighbors against hatred and violence. In this time of darkness, we are grateful for the light of kindness in our community.” Bethany Sorkey, Executive Director, North Louisiana Jewish Federation
“More than 60 people crowded to the front of an auditorium Wednesday night at the Jewish Community Center, spilling across the front of the room and around to the sides. They were the leaders and retired leaders from different faith communities around the Lehigh Valley, representing Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Hinduism, who gathered to denounce anti-Semitism and hate after a gunman Saturday killed 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. They gathered at an interfaith vigil where members of all faiths could mourn together and show their support.” Jeri Zimmerman, Interim Executive Director, Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley
On Friday, The Associated Jewish Community Federation and Baltimore Jewish Council are co-sponsoring an Interfaith Oneg Shabbat. “This event will be as diverse as our city and as loving, joyful and fulfilling as life should be. We will stand together resolving to do our share. We will stand united in the face of bigotry and demonstrate that love of mankind can conquer evil.” Marc B. Terrill, President, The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore
“Tonight’s vigil in Pittsfield is sponsored by the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires. It will bring together Jewish communities in the county along with interfaith groups and activist groups like the Four Freedoms Coalition. Jewish Federation of the Berkshires.” Jewish Federation of the Berkshires (upstate New York)
“This rally was a testament to the grief, sorrow and outrage that so many of us felt, that we came together so quickly. We stand in outrage and shock at the devastating tragedy that occurred in Pittsburgh and we stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the Pittsburgh Jewish community. We are incredibly grateful to our local police forces and sheriffs’ departments and to the law enforcement community, and we remind all synagogues, agencies and institutions of our Jewish community to increase their vigilance and communication with their local police and with Federation. As a community we stand together, and no institution should feel alone at this time.” Dov Ben-Shimon, CEO, The Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest
In Madison, Wisconsin, a vigil was cosponsored by Beth Israel Center, Congregation Shaarei Shamayim, Temple Beth El, UW Hillel, Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice and the Jewish Federation of Madison. Madison leaders spoke representing Jewish, Muslim and Christian faiths, with some sharing their direct connections to people and the synagogue in Pittsburgh. It was a healing show of support and a strong stance against hatred in all forms, white supremacy, and religious bigotry. Jewish Federation of Madison, Wisconsin
A solidarity vigil in Poughkeepsie was held Tuesday by the Jewish Federation of Dutchess County and the Dutchess County Interfaith Council. Attendees had a chance to hear not only from various rabbis in the area but from Peter Byrne, a bishop at the Archdiocese of New York, and from Badar Usmani, the imam at the Mid-Hudson Islamic Association. Jewish Federation of Dutchess County (upstate New York)
“Our strongest message is not to let them win. We will not be swayed by acts of violence and antisemitism and hatred and bigotry. To see the support amongst other faith-based groups is heart-warming. This shows a comprehensive community effort to stand against hatred.” Michael Hoffman, President & CEO, The Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County (Florida)
“Several New Orleans synagogues are participating the Solidity Shabbat. Additionally, Mayor Cantrell will be speaking at one of them. A vigil to honor those that lost their lives, to extend our hearts and prayers to the victims and their families and to send a resounding message within the greater New Orleans community that we won’t tolerate hate.” Arnie Fielkow, CEO, The Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans
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