Dear Congregation Beth Israel community,

I emerged from Shabbat to the news of the horrific shooting at a grocery store in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo. The shooter was motivated by racial hatred and by the so-called “great replacement theory” –  the belief that Jews are orchestrating a “replacement” of white Americans with people of color. That same argument has motivated many shootings in houses of worship and elsewhere.

My heart weeps for the victims and for their families. This is a senseless and unthinkable loss. A friend in Buffalo remarked to me this morning that they never expected this to happen there. The terrible reality of this moment is that this can happen anywhere.

It breaks my heart that so many American communities experience racially-motivated shootings like these. And it breaks my heart that the ancient hatreds that fueled this weekend’s shooting not only persist, but seem to be thriving.

I dream of a diverse, multiracial, and multicultural America, an America where people of all races and religions can live freely without fear or oppression. I learned that dream from my mother, of blessed memory, who fled to this country seeking a safe haven from hatred. That ideal is not yet reality, but it can still be our guiding star.

If the news of this shooting (or the contents of the shooter’s manifesto) leaves you feeling vulnerable or afraid, please know that you are not alone. Reach out to me if you’d like to find a time to talk. And please know that the CBI Board and I are doing everything we can to balance our Jewish obligation to be welcoming with our Jewish obligation to protect life. We are doing our best to keep our community safe in these difficult times.

I don’t know where we go from here. I do know that the only way forward is together, fueled by our Jewish values, drawing strength from our traditions and practices as we walk the road ahead. Remember that hope is a discipline, and we strengthen our capacity to hope when we work together toward a better world.

May these terrible and hateful realities become the birth pangs of a renewed push toward eradicating racism and antisemitism. May we be galvanized to build a nation (even a world!) of justice, freedom, and dignity for all. As we learn in Pirkei Avot, it is not incumbent upon us to complete the task, but neither may we refrain from doing what we can.

Blessings to all,

— Rabbi Rachel