Dear CBI community,

Oy, what a week it’s been. (And when, in recent memory, have we reached Friday afternoon and not felt that way?) This week some of you reached out about troubling news stories: a map circulating in neo-Nazi spaces that shows the location of some Jewish and non-Jewish organizations and synagogues across Massachusetts (though not, to my knowledge, any Berkshire County synagogues), and a group of anti-circumcision activists holding a protest in Pittsfield this Shabbat.

It is easy to feel beleaguered and overwhelmed. I know that many of us are grappling with questions about our safety, our nation’s trajectory, and our future. If any of this raises anxiety for you, please know that I am here to listen and to offer support. Please know, also, that the CBI Board has taken (and will continue to take) meaningful steps to keep us safer at CBI.

This is not the first time that the Jewish people has navigated difficulty, fear, or antisemitism. Our traditions give us tools for times like these – among them, our spiritual practices. From prayer to mindfulness, embodied practices like stretching and yoga, spending time in nature (a particular gift of where we are), approaching meals with gratitude: all of these can help us stay steady.

This Shabbat I will embrace a few of these tools that especially help me. One of them is baking and blessing challah. Anything tangible and sensory can ground us in the now instead of in our anxieties about the future or the past. Another is kindling Shabbat candles: a reminder that we have the capacity to bring light. I hope these practices will help you through this moment, too.

I find comfort in the knowledge that our ancestors held on to their Judaism in difficult times, and so can we. Earlier this week I saw images of Yiddish graffiti that reads, in translation, “We will outlive them.” And I truly do trust that Judaism will outlive every hatred that is thrown our way. That was true thousands of years ago when the first Temple was destroyed, and it is true now.

Speaking of that ancient destruction, I hope you’ll join us for Tisha b’Av observed on Sunday, August 7: the springboard that will lift us out of the ashes and into our season of teshuvah and hope. May we take joy in our community and our traditions, now and always. I look so forward to being with all of you during the coming Days of Awe, and all year long to follow.

For now, Shabbat shalom to you and yours,

— Rabbi Rachel