Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Captives of Hope

Rabbi Angela Buchdahl: As you have probably already learned, it was indeed Rabbi Angela Buchdahl, Senior Rabbi of Manhattan's Central Synagogue, whom the gunman at Congregation Beth Israel contacted one week ago.

Rabbi Buchdahl spoke about those two telephone encounters at the Kabbalat Shabbat service this past Friday. That service (as are most) was livestreamed - and Abq Jew was fortunate to tune in at just the right time.

Rabbi Angela Buchdahl
In a Friday night sermon on Jan. 21, 2022, Rabbi Angela Buchdahl of Manhattan's
Central Synagogue spoke about her experience being contacted by the gunman
who took Jews hostage at a synagogue in Texas a week earlier. (Screenshot)

Just the right time was not, as you might expect, Rabbi Buchdahl's sermon - although we'll get to that. It was, instead, just the right time to hear Rabbi Cantor Angela Buchdahl and Cantor Dan Mutlu lead the congregation in singing Psalm 96, Sing a New Song, one of the opening hymns.

Which was followed by an absolutely stunning arrangement of the well-known zemira Lecha Dodi, Come, My Beloved.

Now, Abq Jew was not able to stay for the whole Friday night service - kiddush and dinner were waiting. But if you'd like to - here it is

What Abq Jew did do - on Sunday, before football - is download the complete video from Facebook, then cut and edit the parts (see above) he wanted. Central Synagogue had already provided, separately, the Remarks by Mayor Eric Adams and, of course, Rabbi Buchdahl's sermon, Captives of Hope.

The sermon has been adapted into an essay and published at The Forward.

Philissa Cramer - JTA's Editor-in-Chief - wrote (January 22, 2022) about the sermon:
Rabbi Angela Buchdahl details call with Texas gunman in ‘Captives of Hope’ sermon

The New York City rabbi who spoke twice to the man who held Jews hostage in their Texas synagogue last week detailed the experience in a sermon Friday night.

Rabbi Angela Buchdahl of Central Synagogue also outlined her anxiety as an American Jew and exhorted her congregants to heed a prayer that the Reform movement has made part of its liturgy on Tisha B’Av, the Jewish day mourning the destruction of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem and other traumatic events in Jewish history: “Blessed are you, Adonai, who makes us captives of hope.”

Buchdahl had previously acknowledged being contacted by the gunman, whom he reportedly found by searching for influential rabbis. But in her sermon, she recounted the voicemail from Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, delivered in what she said was an “unfaltering voice,” that alerted her to her involvement. 
“We have an actual gunman who is claiming to have bombs and he wants to talk to you,” Buchdahl quoted. “If you can call me back at this number that would be greatly appreciated. This is not a joke.'
The heart of Rabbi Buchdahl's sermon -
“If you are a Jew in America and you are not feeling unsettled,” Buchdahl said, “then you are not paying attention.”

I’m unsettled because the world only has the most simplistic understanding of antisemitism. If someone says they hate Jews, or they want to kill Jews, we call it antisemitism. But even educated people, the director of the FBI, do not recognize its far more insidious guise as the trope that Jews are all powerful and control everything. We saw how dangerous that age-old conspiracy theory can be.

I’m unsettled because I saw firsthand that you cannot negotiate with a terrorist. And more and more people in our country and around the globe are captivated by terrifying hateful ideologies, which they value more than their own lives.

I’m unsettled because Rabbi Cytron-Walker’s kindness and humanity were used against him. He opened his doors to this man and gave him a cup of tea. This rabbi welcomes the stranger and this is his reward? We have to protect ourselves. We cannot be naive. But I also know that if we only build fortresses around our sanctuaries, and around our hearts, then he wins.

I’m unsettled because I heard the terrifying voice of radical extremism filtered through the mind of a deranged person who was able to get a gun and then hold for people and an entire Jewish community hostage for 11 hours. I think of the ripple effects that this man set off and the countless resources that we will spend to prevent it from happening again.
Ms Cramer tells us that Rabbi Buchdahl ended her sermon -
... by looking to the week’s Torah portion, Yitro, in which Moses’s non-Jewish father-in-law tells Moses that he is not leading the Israelites to freedom alone.

“This message is truly for all of us. None of us can do this alone,” she said. She later added that  seeing so many congregants attend services — something that Biden administration antisemitism envoy nominee Deborah Lipstadt encouraged Jews to do as an act of courage — was heartening.

I could not do this without all of you showing up tonight, whether in this sanctuary or online. You are showing up not just for Central, but for Judaism. 

You’re showing up for fearlessness in the face of fear. None of us can do this alone, even as this pandemic has tested us and forced us to feel more alone than we ever thought we would have to be. 

But our tradition keeps pushing us back into community and tells us not only that we need to do this with each other. 

We need to create bridges outside the Jewish community itself.
Golden Gate Bridge Van Gogh

New York City's Central Synagogue is blessed with great location, landmark history, notable clergy, an outstanding full-time staff of 100+, and a 2-year waitlist to join the strictly-limited 2,600 household membership units. 

Which is why Central Synagogue can do what it does - from the exuberant joy of Welcoming the Sabbath to the solemn tones of Captives of Hope. 

Central Synagogue
Central Synagogue, 652 Lexington Avenue at East 55th Street

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