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Rabbis’ Response to the Events in Charlottesville

We, like many of you, experienced the events of last weekend with a certain amount of shock. We heard the rhetoric. We saw the hate. We read the websites. We felt the threat, which was very real.

We know that many of you are concerned about CBI’s security, and the safety of your family members, your children, and your friends who consider this their Jewish home. Please know that we are meeting with security professionals of the very highest level, who provide security for Federations and Jewish communities all over the country, and we are following their advice about how to best protect our synagogue. Even before this weekend, we had updated our security system, which includes new cameras, doors, entry codes, and alarms, and we have been assured by security professionals that these precautions will be extremely helpful in protecting our building. Over the past weekend, we engaged the services of a private security company and we plan to continue using their services for the next few weeks. We are taking into account the level of security that we will need for Shabbat services and our daily activities. We are also in dialogue with the Charlottesville Police Department and they fully understand our needs in this community.

Security is one part of our response. The other part is our choice to continue celebrating, learning, and worshiping within this building, and within this community that gives us our support and strength. We had a wonderful healing service on Monday, August 14, where many of you gathered to express your thoughts and feelings. We want to encourage you to keep talking. To pick up your phones and call other CBI members, your rabbis, our staff and leadership. Because more important than anything that was said Monday evening, was the fact that we were in that room together. We are all in this together, and we will find strength in one another. And we are receiving support from outside our community as well. 

The question before us is this: how do we move forward?

The first rule of healing is that it takes time. It will take time for us to put the events of this weekend into perspective. We know a lot of you were there, and you must have seen and heard things you won’t soon forget.

But as Alan Zimmerman wrote in his marvelous letter, our feelings of vulnerability are only a part of last weekend's story. It is also about courage, resilience, and acts of kindness and love. We must not narrow the frame to fear and worry. We must remember that there are people around us who want to help. Who are watching out for our building. Who know that we have been threatened. Who saw the hate on our streets, and are standing up for us. We have received a tremendous outpouring of support—from people far and wide, Jewish and not Jewish, offering generous donations and messages of hope and love.

Rabbi Nachman of Breslov teaches:

"Kol ha’olam kulo gesher tsar m’od
v’haikar lo l’fached klal.”

The whole world is a narrow bridge, and the important thing is to not be afraid.

Even when there is something to fear—a real and legitimate threat—we don’t have to make ourselves fearful. We can stand in a place of courage. A place of confidence. A place of resilience. That is our choice. We can rely on one another for that courage, and confidence, and resilience. And on the Holy One. We often conclude our Shabbat services with the singing of Adon Olam. Its last words are these:

Adonai li v'lo 'ira
God is with me, I shall not fear.

Sincerely, Rabbi Tom and Rabbi Rachel