This Friday night, our “Shabbat Alive” service will be joyous, as always, but we will also grapple with some serious issues. We’ll enjoy baseball legend Tommy Lasorda (bring your friends, children and grandchildren to Shabbat dinner and services to meet him), but we’ll also set aside time to reflect on Paris, to honor veterans on the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII, to remember the tragic assassinations of President Kennedy and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (both of which occurred in November) and to rededicate ourselves to working for a world of peace and justice.
Islamic fascism has once again reared its ugly head with the senseless and wanton murder of 129 innocent victims in Paris. All of us well remember how the world came together earlier this year to comfort Parisians after the Charlie Hebdo and Kosher market murders. Once again, the eyes of the world are on France – not just in mourning – but to see how the West will deal with terrorist cells within Europe and the United States and if and how retaliation in Syria and beyond might make a difference.
Everyone wants a quick fix, a dramatic solution to this vicious enemy that combines asymmetrical warfare with religious fanaticism. But a united response by the civilized West will take a long time, combining reflection and action, as well as military skill and diplomatic coordination with our allies.
One of the most moving moments last Saturday, at our congregational retreat, the Kallah, was when we all rose and joined in singing the French National Anthem, La Marseillaise, in solidarity with France and its victims. Throughout our Shabbat weekend, Paris was on our minds, in our discussions and at our services when we recited Mourner’s Kaddish. The theme of our Kallah was Judaism’s present and future, our place in it and our responsibility for it, and terrorism, one of the tragic realities that we will have to face for a long time, will sadly be part of Judaism and humanity’s future.
Since Saturday, I’ve been in contact with a Reconstructionist Rabbi who lives in Paris, whom we visited seven years ago on our University Synagogue trip to Spain and France. Last Friday night, his daughter was only 500 yards from the Bataclan Theater where almost a hundred murders took place. She escaped by hiding in a café whose owner protected potential victims by slamming shut the metal door! What are we in France to do, the Rabbi asked. We, who abhor violence against anyone, must now support retribution and the possible curtailment of some of our civil liberties. We now live like Israelis, he added, trying to enjoy normalcy, while simultaneously being vigilant against terror.
Earlier, in November, at our Jewish Film Festival, we showed an incredible film about Italian Catholics who became Righteous Rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust. One of our own members, who appeared in the film, spoke of her gratitude to those Italians who fought against fascism and Nazism at risk to their own lives. They were true heroes, refusing to join in demonizing those considered as “Other.” We, as Americans and Jews, need to support those in the Muslim world – individuals and countries – who will defy and combat – in word and in deed – the madness and murder of the cancer called ISIS. It’s time to stand up against its religious and political insanity and to meet hatred with reason, reality and a love for all humanity.
Be with us again next Tuesday night, November 24, at 7:30 p.m. at University Synagogue, when we join in our annual Pre-Thanksgiving Interfaith service with Irvine United Congregational Church. Our Cantor will sing, as will the church and synagogue choirs as one, and our guest speaker will be a great humanitarian and CNN hero, Sir Bruno Serato. Bruno’s altruism and selflessness in feeding thousands of poor children in Orange County each week is a reminder that love is stronger and more lasting than hate for it’s the truest reflection of our human potential and self-actualization.
Let’s be together this Friday night for Shabbat dinner (RSVP by tomorrow) and Shabbat Alive services and then again next Tuesday – joined in a spirit of mutual comfort, support and moral resolve.
Rabbi Arnie Rachlis