We look forward to being together soon in the embrace of Shabbat.
We’ll welcome Shabbat this evening with our Camp Shabbat. Join us for Kabbalat Shabbat at 6 PM. Adults and children are invited to don your best camp swag for a camp-style service.
We join over 350 Conservative/Masorti congregations and institutions across the globe for Solidarity Shabbat, expressing our solidarity wit the people of Israel as we mark the 3rd Shabbat since the attacks of October 7th.
Tomorrow, we will have the pleasure of hearing words of Torah from Simon Schwab, who is marking becoming a bar mitzvah. We wish mazal tov to Simon and the entire Gabay and Schwab families.
The weeks have been full to the brim and beyond recently. This one was no exception. After a weekend filled with beautiful celebrations of Jewish life–a bat mitzvah, a baby naming, and a wedding–we learned on Monday of multiple instances of antisemitic graffiti in the Lakelands and Kentlands. In a moment when our community is already grieving and feeling insecure, it was particularly upsetting- to Eden, our 13 year-old Shaare Torah member who first came upon it, and to all of us.
After talking with our synagogue leadership, colleagues, the ADL, and law enforcement, we decided to respond to the hate by coming out in public and shining our light. The night after Shaare Torah members came out to scrub swastikas from Kentland Market Square, we invited the community to “Wash Away Hate.” Our Shaare Torah members came out, joined by representatives of the Jewish community here in mid-county/up-county and beyond- including Beth Ami, Chabad and more. The area church communities were present, including clergy and parishioners from Prince of Peace Lutheran Church. Elected officials from the city and county and law enforcement officers came to stand with us. Together, with our neighbors, across lines of race, faith, and ethnicity, we stood some 250-strong–adults and children– in the middle of the Kentlands business district in song and prayer. Together, we declared that hate has no home here in Gaithersburg, be it antisemitism or any acts of hate or discrimination.
We concluded by mobilizing all those gathered to counter acts of hate with acts of support and kindness. We asked if everyone present would join us in the mitzvah of tzedakah- donating to our community partner Gaithersburg HELP. We recounted the 2015 incident of antisemitic graffiti on our own building that also galvanized us and our neighbors to action with the creation of the annual Montgomery County Interfaith 5K, which also benefits Gaithersburg HELP.
We responded to hate by being fully, proudly, publicly Jewish, and spreading love and kindness rooted in our Jewish faith. We called on our neighbors and allies and, with very little notice, they showed up and have continued to do so. We have received expressions of concern and solidarity from faith communities from Bethesda to Germantown- Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, and more.
Last night, Rabbi Yosef participated in an interfaith prayer vigil hosted by the Islamic Community Center of Islam. Their leader, Imam Refai Arefin, invited me to speak about our community’s experience since the terror attacks of October 7th and the “Wash Away Hate” event. I was honored to share stories and prayers of grieving Israeli mothers, words of Torah and Hebrew prayer from our liturgy, as well as to share what our community experienced and how we responded earlier this week.
In addition to expressing our anxiety around rising antisemitism, he was able to express our devastation at what is happening in Israel, and our gratitude to Imam Refai for publicly condemning Hamas and calling for the return of hostages.
While there is as much diversity of experiences and viewpoints among American Muslims as there are among American Jews, generally the Muslim community is devastated and grieving for what is happening in Israel and Gaza. They are feeling anxious and afraid due to a rise in Islamophobic attitudes and hate crimes around the US, including here in Montgomery County.
At a time of deep hurt and division, we were grateful last night for an opportunity to see and be seen. Rabbi Yosef was able to share our pain, grief and fear; to have that honored and to be able to witness the pain of our neighbors.
May we find strength and comfort through connecting with one another and our allies as we pray and act for a better world.
I have been invited to participate in an Emergency Solidarity Mission to Israel with a group of rabbis through the Fuchsberg Center for Conservative Judaism. The group plans to depart Sunday and return Thursday. We will be based in Jerusalem and we will hear from those impacted by the events of October 7th as well as representatives of the military and civil society. We will volunteer with ongoing relief efforts. We are grateful to those of you who have collected tactical gloves for Abraham’s unit and I will be bringing them with me on the flight. I look forward to staying in touch throughout our journey and sharing with you what I witness and learn.
As the situation is changing minute to minute and safety is a primary concern, we will confirm on Sunday whether or not I will travel.