Nachamu...Be Comforted

Nachamu Nachamu Ami…Be comforted, Be comforted, My people (Isaiah 40:1)… This 2500 year old prophetic invocation still resonates for any moment of tragedy, when our Kehillah, our community, is wounded.  It is a much needed message in light of Saturday’s attack on the Tree of Life synagogue of Pittsburgh, resulting in 11 deaths and more injured, among the congregation and first responders.  In this time of darkness, we are fortunate that words, and deeds, of comfort, have come from across the state, the country, and the globe, bringing Jews and members of diverse religious and cultural groups, of all ages, together, in unity, and shared pain.

We highlight, with wonder and gratitude, Sunday’s vigil on the Boston Common, sponsored by JCRC, CJP, ADL, and The Synagogue Council of MA.  The gathering, attended by thousands, was buttressed with the presence of numerous leaders of government and religious organizations, and buoyed by reflections and prayers from Governor Baker, Mayor Walsh, Senator Markey, Congressman Kennedy, Attorney General Healey, Police Commissioner Gross, State Treasurer Goldberg, Cardinal O’Malley of the Catholic Archdiocese, Shaykh Fahmy of ISBCC, Rev. Walker of Roxbury Presbyterian Church, Barsamian of the Mass. Council of Churches, Israeli Consul General Boker, Rabbis Spitzer, Hellman, and Cohen-Anisfeld, and Cantor Rosenberg, agency colleagues, Jeremy Burton, JCRC, Marc Baker, CJP, Robert Trestan, ADL, and Boston University undergrad Ariel Stein, a Pittsburgh native and Tree of Life member.

I found Shaykh Fahmy particularly inspiring, urging us to “wear our Yarmulkes a bit tighter,” to preserve our Jewish pride and dignity and remain undaunted in the face of hateful rhetoric and anti-Semitic violence.  The Imam’s charge is poignant in its symbolism.  We must uphold our core values and mission, all the more so when those very values are under assault.   Our “Nachamu,” Isaiah chapter continues “Prepare a path in the desert, God, level a pass in the wilderness…”  The Pittsburgh terrorist leveled his anger against the Jewish community because we have been preparing a path to freedom and safety on our shores for refugees and immigrants.   Now is the time to double down on our imperative to welcome the stranger… Now is the time to open our hearts rather than close ranks, even as we attempt to manage our grief and join hands with members of our Pittsburgh family. 

Hamakom Yenachem     May God comfort all those in mourning

David Bernat, PhD     Executive Director, Synagogue Council of MA