I am struggling to find the right words to write this week, not just as a spiritual leader but for myself as well. My first reaction to this week’s events was to disengage, maybe into the safety of denial, but then emails started to flow back and forth with my Israeli family members. And then there were too many personal stories that changed numbers into real people  – friends of friends who are now hostages, a nephew of a friend who lost 50 of his friends at a love and peace musical festival, and story-upon-story of individuals and families who themselves are now survivors deeply traumatized. And I knew I was a part of this story. Any harm to a Jew elsewhere is felt by all of us. And the harms here are huge.

I really don’t know my way through this, and I suspect we will all go through challenging emotional and spiritual journeys, individually and as a community. But what I discovered at our community-wide solidarity gathering on Tuesday night was that I don’t have to go through this alone.  I found the wide embrace of a community, over 2,000 strong, just wanting to stand beside each other without having to tell stories. Canada stood with us, at all levels of government, and an Israeli speaker – a high school principal who was accompanying 10 of his students in a student exchange at the Grey Academy – looked out at us in tears and said, “I see hope that there will be better days ahead.” Meanwhile, my Israeli cousins write us almost daily telling us how much our warmth, love, and support means to them.

Judaism is unique because it is about peoplehood and community. We take care of each other, both to heal and to build forward. I encourage us all not to do this alone, but to reach out into your safe communities. And if you’re struggling, please contact Jewish Child & Family Services who are pivoting quickly to offer community support services, at 204-477-7430. And if you want to help with donations to Israel’s crisis response, please do so through the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg’s website, www.jewishwinnipeg.org

We have had many blows over the years. We yearned for 2,000 years for a Jewish homeland, and we finally achieved that first dream. Our second dream – peaceful co-existence with our neighbours – may take a while now, but let’s continue to yearn.

Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Allan