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we remember them

07/29/2022 12:10:38 PM


Rabbi Jeffrey Myers

There is a point in time when attacks upon houses of worship became an acceptable expression of H to some Americans, and that date was August 5, 2012. On that date, a gunman entered a gurdwara (a place of worship and assembly for Sikhs) in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, and murdered six worshippers. I do not propose to ignore bombings of Black churches in the previous millennium, but rather note that houses of worship were not regular targets of mass shootings until this date. In rather rapid succession, there was a mass shooting in Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17, 2015, a mass shooting in the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas on November 5, 2017, a mass shooting in Tree of Life in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on October 27, 2018, and a mass shooting in a Chabad synagogue in Poway, California on April 27, 2019. Despite the uproar and cry from citizens across the country, the federal government was slow to respond, the thinking being that this was an isolated incident. Ten years later, fifty-three dead, and what can we say is different? Do Americans feel safer attending their houses of worship?

There are many who have lost their faith as a result of these mass shootings, and I understand. Faith builds over one’s lifetime, but in an instant, it can be taken away, stolen by a perpetrator bent on evil. It cannot be instantly restored, if at all. You cannot purchase faith on-line from a store or download it. Faith is carefully cultivated over our lives, in the hope that it grows stronger and becomes a place to turn to in trying times. When someone’s faith is stolen, as can be the case in a mass shooting, the ability to heal is severely compromised, for the faith that one would turn to at that moment has been ripped away, leaving the individual empty with no replacement to turn to.

I am fortunate in that my faith grew stronger after the massacre in Tree of Life, as I came to acknowledge that God wanted me to be in Pittsburgh for just this reason, and I have accepted the responsibilities that God has foisted upon me, as I ask God daily for guidance and inspiration to be the best version of myself. There is no set formula, no particular words to say, prayers to invoke, or material to read that can simply restore faith. As heinous as the massacres are with the loss of innocent lives and the injuries both physical and mental, the spiritual loss is a component that is equally difficult to heal. I pray that all of the affected communities listed above are able to find paths toward healing. Today, however, my thoughts turn to Oak Creek, Wisconsin, and the six people murdered:

Suveg Singh Khattra

Satwant Singh Kaleka

Ranjit Singh

Sita Singh

Paramjit Kaur

Prakash Singh


May their memories always be for a blessing.


Wed, February 1 2023 10 Shevat 5783