The Pittsburgh Massacre

October, 30th, 2018

This Saturday morning in our synagogue in Sag Harbor, I led our congregation in the Av Harachamim prayer. Av Harachamim is a memorial prayer dedicated to all the innocent lives that have been murdered and cut short due to Jewish persecution throughout the ages. The prayer first entered the Sidur in the 13th century following the crusades and is recited weekly during Shabbat services.

I usually read this prayer out loud in English as it’s a powerful tribute to the anti-Semitism and violence our ancestors faced throughout history.

Each Shabbat morning, I read these words slowly and sadly:

May the all merciful Father who dwells on high in His great mercy remember with compassion the pious, upright and the perfect ones, the holy communities, who gave their lives for the sanctification of the Divine name. They were beloved and pleasant in their lives and in death they were not parted from Him. They were swifter than eagles and stronger than lions to carry out the will of their Maker and the desire of their Creator. May our Lord remember them with favor together with the other righteous of the world and avenge the spilled blood of his servants…

As it turns out, just about the same time that I was reading these words in our synagogue, a few hundred miles away a Jewish massacre was taking place in a synagogue during Shabbat services.

I learned about the news later in the day when two police officers from the NY State Troopers visited our center to reach out to the local Jewish community following the tragic events in Pittsburgh.

My initial reaction was, what here in America? How can this be? Such hate? Do we need to secure synagogues with armed guards and metal detectors like in parts of Europe?

On behalf of Center For Jewish Life, I would like to express my condolences to the entire Pittsburgh Jewish community and all the families who were effected by this great tragedy.

To anti-Semites and Jewish detractors worldwide, you have underestimated the power of light that has been kindled in the wake of this tragedy. We will grow, expand and rededicate our commitment to the Torah and spirit of Jewishness which embodies justice for all mankind, love, kindness and G-dliness. The torch that could not be extinguished nor dimmed during dark centuries of Jewish persecution will shine brighter than ever before.

I welcome your thoughts on this matter. If there is anything you would like to discuss in person about this horrific event, please don’t hesitate to email me or call me at 631-938-6202.

May we soon merit to see the day prophesied by Isaiah:

"...Death will be swallowed up forever, and the Lord will wipe away tears from all faces..."

A day when evil will be abolished and there will be peace for all mankind in the era of Moshiach, please G-d soon in our time.


Rabbi Berel Lerman