Are Synagogues Safe After Pittsburgh?

We have all been deeply affected by the shooting in Pittsburgh.

There is a great danger ahead. The danger is that Jews become intimidated into hiding away. In the wake of such a tragedy, avoiding shul is far riskier than attending. You risk giving your kids the wrong message.

I will never forget something that happened when in Jerusalem during the 2001 intifada. One Thursday afternoon, the busy Sbarro pizza shop, became the target of a Palestinian suicide bomber. He stood amongst the crowds innocently eating their lunch, and exploded himself, killing 15 people, including 7 children and a pregnant woman, and injuring 130. It was an unspeakable tragedy that shook the Jewish world.

It hit me hard too. But what stuck with me was what happened in the aftermath of the attack. Within a few weeks, the pizza store was open for business again. Construction crews worked around the clock to clean up the wreckage and rebuild it like new, as if nothing had happened. A bustling eatery had turned into the scene of mass murder, and then back into a bustling eatery, all in the space of a month. Only one thing had changed. A plaque was placed on the wall that read:

In memoriam of the darkness that befell us on August 9, 2001.
Sbarro Family, City of Jerusalem, and the whole House of Israel.

All the employees came back to work that day, except for one who was killed and two who were still recovering from injury. They resumed serving lunch to their customers, including some who had been there on that dark day only weeks before. The message was powerful: We will not forget the dead, but we will not stop living.

This is the Jewish response to terror. We don’t cower in the face of intimidation. We don’t allow our enemies to define who we are and what we do. We don’t adjust our lives to suit the evil schemes of those who hate us. We are here, and we are here to stay.

It was amazingly poignant that the day Sbarro pizzeria reopened was September 12, 2001, a day after the 9/11 attacks on America. Israel was teaching America and the world the answer to tragedy: we mourn for those who were lost, we pray for those who were hurt, we bring the perpetrators to justice, and we don’t change who we are because someone doesn’t like us.

You now have the opportunity to teach this truth to your children. Make a point to take them to shul, especially on Shabbos. Walk proudly as Jews. And explain to them that we don’t let evil win. We cry for the victims. And we honor them by doing what they wished to do – live as proud Jews.

Rabbi Mendel Bluming has served the Potomac Maryland area community since 2003 through the Chabad Shul of Potomac. Menachem Mendel Bluming encourages Jewish pride knowledge and engagement. This article was written by Rabbi Bluming and Rabbi Moss.