October 28, 2018


A Massacre in the Heart of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood: Squirrel Hill will continue to live by the values that Jews have sustained for more than 2,000 years. They can never be gunned down. (Bari Weiss, Oct. 27, 2018, NY Times)

One of the alleged shooter's obsessions on social media was HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, a Jewish organization originally founded in the late 1800s to resettle Jews fleeing pogroms in Eastern Europe. Today it rescues Jews and non-Jews facing persecution all over the world.

A few weeks ago, Mr. Bowers shared a link to an event called Refugee Shabbat, a national initiative organized by HIAS, of which Tree of Life was a participating synagogue. "Why hello there HIAS! You like to bring in hostile invaders to dwell among us?" he wrote on a social networking site often used by alt-right activists and white nationalists.

Just this morning, he posted: "HIAS likes to bring in invaders that kill our people. I can't sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I'm going in."

The heartbreaking coincidence is that the Jewish emphasis on the open door, on welcoming the stranger, is exactly what the Jews of Tree of Life and the Jews of every synagogue big and small in every far-flung corner of the globe were reading about this Shabbat morning.

They were reading from the chapters of Genesis we refer to as Vayera. The Torah portion opens on Judaism's founding father and mother: Abraham and Sarah. Three men show up to their tent -- strangers -- and the couple welcomes them: feeding them, giving them shade and washing their feet.

These strangers come with a shocking message: Sarah, then the ripe age of 90, will bear a child.

Sarah laughs, incredulous. But she soon gives birth to Isaac. And the strangers, tradition teaches us, are not strangers at all, but angels in disguise. [...]

Just as every Jewish couple gets married under a canopy open on all four sides -- a replica of the tent modeled for us by Abraham and Sarah -- so must Jewish communities keep our tents open. This is the true source of our longevity and resilience.

Posted by at October 28, 2018 9:04 AM