Monday, October 16, 2023

Santa Fe Vigil for Israel

At Temple Beth Shalom: On Tuesday, October 10th, the Santa Fe Jewish community held a Cross-Communal Vigil for Israel. It was held at Temple Beth Shalom, and was led by Rabbi Neil Amswych and Cantor Lianna Mendelson.

The vigil was covered by the Santa Fe New Mexican, and was recorded by Temple Beth Shalom via StreamSpot.

TBS Vigil
Rabbi Neil Amswych and Cantor Lianna Mendelson lead the group
gathered at a cross-communal vigil Tuesday at Temple Beth Shalom
 in Santa Fe in prayer and song. Gabriela Campos/The New Mexican

Here are Rabbi Amswych's words that started the vigil.

We are here because last Shabbat, the greatest pogrom in eighty years against the Jewish people took place, the largest deliberate slaughter of Jews in one day since the Holocaust. 

This is yet another horrific chapter in the history of our people. We had hoped and prayed that we were beyond this, that humanity had progressed beyond this point, that there were places where we could truly feel safe. 

But we were wrong. 

This is therefore a time of deep trauma, a time of profound mourning and loss, a time when we, the Jewish community, sit in grief. This is a memorial service, as well as a service of prayers for hope, and most importantly, this is a chance to support those among us this evening who have lost family and friends, those who still don’t know what has happened to loved ones, and those who are terrified for the future of their loved ones. 

We come from a wide variety of viewpoints regarding how to create peace in the Middle East but we are not here to discuss that this evening, and we ask that you please respect that tonight - so that we can all support those here tonight who are mourning and those who are suffering from deep, profound trauma. 

Of course, we pray for peace in the world. Of course, we live in the hope that eventually nation will not lift up sword against nation and will never again learn war any more. Of course, all suffering around the world, including in the Middle East, troubles us deeply. Of course, those things are true. 

But that is not why we are gathered here this evening. 

We are here because Jews like us, members of our extended family, were hunted in their homes. Beheaded. Shot. Kidnapped. Over a thousand Jews slaughtered indiscriminately by murderous animals in one day. 

Here at Temple Beth Shalom, we actively work for justice and for peace in the Middle East in many differing ways. 

Tonight, that work takes the form of acknowledging the extraordinary pain of our people in the face of monstrous slaughter. 

Tonight, we gather because we have just relearned the lesson that every generation of Jews before us also was forced to learn – that there will always be people who want to kill us, and that we will always, always stand up to them.

Since the beginning of our people, Amalek has always risen up to try to destroy us. In differing generations, it takes differing forms, but its mission is always the same - not compromise, not peace, not co-existence, but annihilation. 

We have always stood up to their murderous ways, and we always will. Their act of barbarity brings the Jewish community in Santa Fe and around the world closer together. 

Tonight’s Vigil for Israel is led by clergy from four differing Jewish communities here in Santa Fe - by me, Rabbi Neil, and Cantor Lianna from Temple Beth Shalom, by Rabbi Jack Shlachter from HaMakom, by Rabbi Martin Levy from Beit Tikvah, and by Rabbi Berel Levertov from Chabad. 

We also have two of many Israeli members from the Santa Fe Jewish community participating this evening. Cantor Cindy [Freedman, of HaMakom] and Cantor Ephraim [Herrera, of Beit Tikvah] were not able to be with us this evening, although they absolutely wanted to be. We are united across this Jewish community in our absolute condemnation of acts of barbarity and terror, and in our support for the existence of the State of Israel. 

When one Jew is attacked, all Jews are attacked.
When one Jew is attacked, all Jews are attacked. 

To the non-Jews who are here this evening, we profoundly thank you for your presence, and we ask you for two things. 

Firstly, hear our pain and ask what you can do to support us. Don’t assume, ask. Listen before speaking. 

Secondly, speak out against this barbarous pogrom. Condemn it for all its inhumanity. See it for what it is – one of the greatest acts of terrorism of the modern age. The non-Jewish world has for millennia sat by silently while Jews were slaughtered. 

In recent times, it has equivocated, it has tempered condemnation of violence against Jews with subtle and unsubtle critiques of Israel or of the Jewish community. It supported the victim while simultaneously blaming the victim. 

We beg you not to do that this time. 

There is no excuse for invading a country and beheading its babies. There is no justification for hunting down innocent people in their homes. 

You didn’t try to justify what drove homicidal terrorists to murder innocent people decades ago on 9/11 and we beg you not to do the same now. Sit with us, hear our pain, hear our prayers, pray with us, and condemn in the loudest possible terms those who have done this.

There is much that everyone in this Sanctuary could say about what has happened in the past few days, but we ask that you please allow us to move through our vigil this evening uninterrupted - so that we can provide comfort and support to so many who are here in so much pain. 

This is a vigil to provide support, so please allow us to do that. The horror of what has happened over the last few days, and what is happening now, is monumentally difficult to process. We are here to help as many people process this as possible.

We are here not only this evening -
but in the coming days, weeks, and months. 

Many of you here may already be experiencing signs of trauma – forgetfulness, feelings of being overwhelmed, lack of sleep, depression – and much more. We are here to support you. If you need confidential pastoral support, we are here for you. That is why we gather in community – to support each other through the good times and the bad.

I would like to close with a prayer written by Rabbi Karyn Kedar:

We gather together, in faith and with hope to pray for peace and for the safety of the people of Israel.

Help us, O Holy One and protect us in our hour of need. Touch our hearts lest they are hardened with despair. Guide our thoughts lest they are overcome with fear.

Bring healing to the wounded, strength to those in mourning, courage to those in fear, wisdom to those who lead.

Yedid nefesh, Beloved One, reveal Yourself and fill the world with Your light. Spread over us the shelter of Your peace. 

Be quick, God of love, for the time has come. Have mercy upon us, Eternal One of peace.

And let us say, Amen.

We Are With You

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