Memorial Service at Congregation B’Nai Emunah

B'nai Emunah is holding a memorial service for the victims of Tree of Life Synagogue on Tuesday evening, Oct. 30, at 7 p.m.

When I dropped Joss off at school yesterday morning, we were greeted by Congregation B’nai Emunah’s two rabbis, while a security officer stood a few feet away. One of the rabbis complimented Joss on his sparkly shoes (which are Spiderman-red and light up!), wondering if they made any in an adult size. When I left out the same doors (When we first started at B’nai two and a half years ago, you could exit from the preschool wing of the building; however, parents were instructed to stop using this exit after security was tightened following the 2017 Jewish Community Center bomb threats), the rabbis wished me a good day, and I wished the same to them, immediately feeling foolish as I got into my car. Because they weren’t there as an everyday kindly gesture, of course, they were there in response to the Pittsburgh Tree of Life Synagogue shooting on Saturday. “Have a nice day” is clearly an insufficient sentiment to members/leaders of a community in mourning–I just hope they know how much it means to us parents to have them there!

Here is the statement put out by Rabbis Fitzerman and Kaiman on Facebook, etc. It is encouraging to know how quickly the surrounding community began showing support for this local congregation following the shooting:

The American Jewish community is now in mourning. The events in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh are a reminder of the strain of violence and extremism that remains a stain on the America dream. A misguided zealot for a hateful cause has succeeded in bringing eleven lives to an end. Once again we are brought face to face with bloodshed in the sanctuaries and holy places of America. The killings in Pittsburgh are an echo of Charleston, where nine African-Americans lost their lives. The number at the First Baptist Church in Texas was even larger, with twenty-six victims on a Sunday morning.

The Synagogue stands against all of this, and we are grateful to our friends for rushing to our side. Immediately after the events in Squirrel Hill, we began to hear from local law enforcement, from criminal justice office-holders, and from our neighbors in Maple Ridge. Clearly, we are in this together.

In the meantime we hope that many of our fellow Tulsans will gather with us this coming Tuesday evening at 7:00 p.m. We are now laying down plans for a community Memorial Service for the victims of our sister synagogue, Tree of Life. Tulsa Faith leaders will offer words of solidarity and consolation, and we will have a chance to express our fundamental commitments.

We offer our own thanks for the confidence and good wishes that many people have already shared. Please join us in sending condolences to the Jewish community of Pittsburgh, and to every community that has experienced violence of any kind. Let justice be done while we comfort those who mourn, and let the memory of the righteous be for a blessing.

Rabbis Marc Boone Fitzerman and Daniel Shalom Kaiman

Inside the doors to the preschool, they’ve set up an ofrenda with a large Tree of Life symbol upon it and flameless candles that people are invited to light if they feel led. I feel guilty that I will be missing Tuesday evening’s memorial service, but if you can’t make it and have young children, The Khalid Jabara ‘Tikkun Olam’ Memorial Library is having a Day of the Dead-themed Social Justice Story Hour on November 1 at 5:30 p.m. Tree of Life Synagogue will no doubt be on everyone’s mind at this event.

And finally, because the purpose of Social Justice Story Hour is to encourage young children to become “social justice superheroes” by exposing them to stories from other cultures, etc., I looked up a list of Jewish children’s books, if you are interested in helping your children learn more about Jewish culture so that they are hopefully less likely to believe lies and conspiracies later. You can find it here. (And of course, Joss’s favorite remains the adventures of Sammy Spider!)

I am beyond grateful that not only is Joss getting a fantastic and enriching experience at his preschool, he is also getting exposed to Jewish culture through weekly Hebrew lessons, Shabbat services, etc. It is delightful to hear him sing his Shabbat songs and recite “The Itsy Bitsy Spider,” substituting the Hebrew words for “spider,” “sun” and “rain.” We aren’t Jewish, but we have known nothing but kindness and love and a commitment to justice from this community–and it is horrifying that for the second time in 2.5 years, they are having to work to tighten security (which is already pretty sound) because of anti-Semitism.

I don’t know what else to say, except Thank you, Congregation B’nai Emunah, both for taking such good care of Joss and for everything else you do in the community, and we love you.


Categories: Spaghetti on the Wall