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Tree of Life Synagogue - Pittsburgh

The City Shul community joins with our brothers and sisters of all faiths, in Pittsburgh and around the world, in mourning the loss of life and praying for the speedy recovery of all those who were injured at the Tree of Life Synagogue yesterday. We hold the worshippers, first responders, their friends and families close to our hearts. As Jews we extend a "family" hand of friendship to those who were attacked in the middle of Shabbat services in prayer. We are with them at this difficult time. 

While we have no reason to believe that the Toronto Jewish community is at any increased risk due to yesterday's horrific events in Pittsburgh, we are actively engaged in discussions with local law enforcement and security consultants to the Canadian Jewish community. Our school will go on as usual on next Wednesday November 7 and our school staff can provide resources for any parent who needs it in explaining this to their children.

City Shul remains committed to the only antidote we know of to yesterday's heinous attack; love and inclusion. We are grateful and reassured by the public affirmation of support that has been issued by our friends at the Bloor Street United Church, which you can see below. As the forces of intolerance and fear emerge from the shadows, we reaffirm our pride as a progressive Jewish community.

W welcome you to join us at our next regular Shabbat service on November 3, 2018 at 10:00 am where we will continue our regular celebrations of the joy of Shabbat, community and hope, and we will remember those affected at Tree of Life. Our services will be held, as always, at Bloor Street United Church, 300 Bloor Street West, Toronto.

Statement from Bloor Street United Church

The people of Bloor Street United Church are shocked and distressed by news of the shooting today at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh. We are filled with sorrow for the families of the victims. We also know that this horrific crime will resonate in the hearts of our neighbours and friends in City Shul in a way that is profound and unsettling. Please know that we are thinking of you and holding you in our prayers. May the sanctuary we share always be a place that is holy and safe for all.

Rev. Dr. Martha ter Kuile
Bloor Street United Church

Solidarity Shabbat - November 3, 2018

Rabbi Elyse Goldstein

From the Megillah, the scroll of Eicha, Lamentations 1:16:

עַל-אֵלֶּה אֲנִי בוֹכִיָּה, עֵינִי עֵינִי יֹרְדָה מַּיִם--כִּי-רָחַק מִמֶּנִּי מְנַחֵם, מֵשִׁיב נַפְשִׁי; הָיוּ בָנַי שׁוֹמֵמִים, כִּי גָבַר אוֹיֵב.

“For these things do I weep, do I weep: My eyes flow with tears: Comfort is far from me, as is anyone who can restore of my soul,. My children are forlorn, For the enemy has prevailed.”

For these things do I weep, do I weep:

My grandfather Jacob Goldstein left his village in Romania after a series of pogroms and the edict of the Czar that all Jewish boys must serve double years in the army, twice that of non-Jews, to show their loyalty. He fled to New York and thus saved my father’s entire family from destruction during the Holocaust. He died when I was young , but this I remember: even though he loved New York and believed that the United States was the “goldene medina”—the land of golden opportunity and peace— he used to say that every Jew must sleep with a packed suitcase under their bed, to be ready to flee at any moment, just in case.

Grandpa, I don’t want to be that kind of Jew. I don’t want police protection or armed guards in my synagogue, and even though they are here today and I deeply appreciate their seriousness and openness in their call to protect me, I know that police in my shul not only perpetuates the insanity of needing protection to pray, it also gives license to the the belief that only violence can protect us from more violence and only guns can protect us from more guns. I also acknowledge the pain that police presence may cause to some in our community who do not yet feel “safer” around the police.

For these things do I weep, do I weep:

For my loss of innocence as a comfortable Jew in the world.

For the children in my school and my shul and around the world who have never experienced anti-Semitism that I must now explain it to.

For the hate, raw and white and misogynist, homophobic, transphobic and xenophobic, which is gathering steam like a boulder rolling down a mountain, and while here are good people on the bottom trying to stop it, there are people on the top pushing it down toward us.

To the esteemed government officials who have joined us this morning, on behalf of my congregation I thank you for being with us, and to you I ask with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my might: that Canada never lose its vision nor sanction nor tolerate nor give voice to or space for the hate that took these 11 lives. To recognize that the same hate unleashed toward my people is unleashed as well toward any vulnerable population, be it LGBTQ or female or person of colour or refugee or immigrant, and may it have no resting place ever in this city and in this country.

To my fellow clergy and their congregations who surrounded us today both physically outside and inside the shul and also emotionally: in the writing of the book of Lamentations my people cried out “we have no one who can restore our soul.” You have proven to me that this is no longer true. You have proven today that my ancestors’ narrative does not have to be mine. In your religious refusal to let us be bullied or fearful or targeted, you have restored our soul and helped us all slowly, slowly unpack that suitcase under our beds.

For these things do I weep, do I weep:

For the “new normal” that will forever place us, as my colleague Rabbi Jamie Gibson of the Reform temple just ½ mile away from Tree of Life in Pittsburgh said: “the time before, and the time after, the PIttsburgh shooting.”

For these things do I weep, do I weep:

For Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, physician known for his compassionate care especially in the early days of HIV treatment.

For Irving Yunger who made sure newcomers always knew the page to turn to in the prayerbook when they arrived.

For Sylvan and Bernice Simons who died together in the same synagogue where they were married 60 years ago.

For Cecil and David Rosenthal, developmentally disabled brothers who waited all week for the moment they could greet worshippers and hand out prayer books and feel important and valued in the world.

For Melvin Wax, first to arrive every Saturday, who knew every prayer by heart.

For Rose Malllinger, 97 year old matriarch of her family who still hosted the family holidays.

For Joyce Fienberg, whose Toronto and Holy Blossom Temple roots touch us all.

For Richard Gottfried, passionate interfaith bridge to other communities.

For Daniel Stein, brand new grandfather.


In today’s Torah portion Abraham buys a plot to bury Sarah, He says to the Hittites “ger v’toshav anochi” I am but a temporary resident in this land, please sell me a plot to bury my dead. No Abraham, we are not any more temporary residents in a country that doesn’t want us to bury our dead! We will bury our dead, and then we will celebrate our births and our weddings and our Bar and Bat Mitzvahs and, because of our historic resilience and our belief in the ultimate goodness of humanity, we will give out as much light as we take in; we will hold as many hands as we can, we will surround as many churches and mosques and synagogues as we need to, we will vote, and we will march, and we will sing, and we will pray. As Rebbe Nachman of Braslav taught us, kol haolam kulo…the whole world is a narrow bridge but the most important thing is not to fear.”

Comfort is not far from me, and we have those who can restore our soul. We will not be forlorn—for the enemy has not prevailed.

May the One who blessed our ancestors, bring us, and all those for whom we pray, courage, healing and strength. Amen.


Sat, 25 January 2020 28 Tevet 5780