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how long must we suffer?

09/08/2022 08:52:39 AM

Sep8

Rabbi Jeffrey Myers

The children of Uvalde, Texas returned to school this week amidst much media fanfare. I cannot answer the question as to whether it would have been better to leave them alone, or to share with all of us how they are doing. For those who do not know, the school where the shooting took place did not re-open. Rather, students from that school are attending other schools with the district. Many children displayed the expected joy of the first day of school. How many continue to harbor fears is unknown, as is if any children are not yet able to return. My thoughts turned to the twenty children of Newtown, CT, massacred on December 12, 2012. They would have been entering their senior year, excited about their future prospects. Alas, their parents are left wondering what could have been. So too the parents in Uvalde. So too the other nine schools since Columbine in December of 1999. A total of 109 lives lost in public schools.

What has been and will be the impact upon our students in the United States, who have become accustomed to phrases like “active shooter drill” and regularly practice these life-saving techniques? In my public school years, we had fire drills, and of course the nuclear bomb practices where we squatted under our desks and put our hands on top of our heads, as though this would spare us any harm from an atomic blast. Alas how America has changed.

I drove by the beautiful art panels that grace the fence in the front of Tree of Life and reflected on the fact that approximately half of the works of art hail from students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. There are also pieces by students from Columbine, Newtown, and New Zealand. This incredible resiliency is remarkable, and offered me hope that despite the safety challenges that all of our school students should never, ever, have to face, these students shared images and words of hope and inspiration with our torn community. There is something very healing about this display. If you have never seen it in person and can do so, I encourage you to take the time. If travelling to Pittsburgh is not on your bucket list yet, here is a link to the display on our website: https://www.treeoflifepgh.org/heartstogether

Yet amongst these bitter memories comes one more, as this coming Sunday marks the twenty-first commemoration of September 11. I will have the privilege of being the first Jewish clergyperson to offer the invocation at the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, PA. While the United States has a day to remember all those who died fighting to preserve the freedoms in our country, called Memorial Day, September 11 also must be set aside as a day to honor all of the victims, and we must never forget them. It would be fitting for each of us to locate where a memorial service is being held, or, encourage your clergy to devote some time to remembering. All the lives lost must be remembered. They cannot have died in vain, for to do so compounds insult upon death. Let us resolve to work towards our best versions of ourselves this month of Elul, to move America towards the best version of itself.

Thu, September 29 2022 4 Tishrei 5783