Dear Rodeph Sholom Community,
We begin this day with gratitude. First and foremost, our gratitude that all four hostages, including our colleague Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, are now safe after 11 hours of being held at gunpoint. As we witness once again the sacred space of Jewish sanctuary robbed of safety, we are grateful to local and national law enforcement for their conviction and solidarity throughout this situation.
At Rodeph Sholom, we are grateful to the devotion of our security team, led by Joe Fahy and Lloyd Moore, who daily dedicate themselves to our collective safety. We are grateful to the commitment of the NYPD, as they prioritize our Rodeph Sholom buildings and visibly affirm that our safety must be definitional to New York City. Security Director Joe Fahy was monitoring the situation throughout the day and into the night through our contacts with local, state, and federal officials and with the support of our partnership with the Community Service Initiative, a joint program of the UJA-Federation of New York and Jewish Community Relations Council of New York. Although at this time there is no credible threat to NYC, the NYPD has committed to increased visits with Critical Response vehicles as well as local precinct vehicles. As always, we will take all necessary steps to protect our community.
There are still significant gaps in our knowledge of what motivated yesterday’s crisis at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas. At a time when hate crimes in general, and antisemitism in particular, continue to rise, we may fill such gaps with our deepest of fears. As our security team and the NYPD partner to ensure our community’s safety, we each also hold responsibility to one another to be moved by commitment more than such fear. Even as we witness once again the reality of Jewish synagogues being transformed by the hate of others, Rodeph Sholom and thousands of other Jewish communities also experienced a rising sense of solidarity and support. Faith leaders from every stream of religion in New York send us their hearts and affirmation of care, a reminder that we are held in a larger community and a conviction that Jewish safety is vital to it. Clergy from synagogues across the city and nation gathered in meetings and online spaces to elevate the strength sparked by collective connection.
For all of us, this is not a time for retreat and isolation, but a moment when we may respond to fear with dedication and declaration – we stand together. We will continue to live our Judaism and our Jewish values with pride, and in word and action we will continue to knit this city, nation, and world together heart by heart. This evening, Sunday, January 16 at 5:30 PM, we will join with the Jewish communities of the Upper West Side in prayer, holding together in hope and responsibility. Cantor De Lowe will bring her leadership to represent our community in this gathering, and we hope you will join us on Zoom.
Below is information about tomorrow’s Mitzvah Day and the opportunities to gather, learn, and work for change as a community. These moments mean to remind us of the impact we may each make daily, raising responsibility in the face of fear and injustice. If you, or anyone in our community, is struggling in the feelings of yesterday, please know your clergy team is here in care and support always. May we meet this day with gratitude and conviction, as one community.
Rabbi Ben Spratt