Our sages tell us us that the Holy Temple in Jerusalem had two gates; one for those suffering loss and anguish. The people of Jerusalem would gather by that gate and offer words of kindness saying, “May the One who dwells in this house comfort you.” Today, we have our synagogues; places of holiness, that in times of hardship we may gather to bear our grief and console ourselves in mutual solidarity.
On this coming Shabbat morning, November 3, the Agudas Achim community will be gathering as we do each and every Shabbat. Some of us attend Shabbat services regularly and this Shabbat, in addition to our regular service, we will acknowledge the atrocity which occurred at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. While I know that some of us are not regular shul-goers, or may have made other plans for this Saturday, I’m asking that you change those plans. This Shabbat we should come together in solidarity as an Agudas Achim community. This is in line with the international #ShowUpForShabbat initiative.
In the wake of the tragedy, our leadership team led by Ari Goldberg, Executive Director, and Julie Saar, President, immediately set out to convene a task force consisting of the Executive Committee and staff to meet with the Columbus Jewish Community’s security consultant, Fred Bowditch, to re-examine our security protocols. This Shabbat, we will be joined by Bexley’s Chief of Police, Larry Rinehart, who will speak to us at the conclusion of services about what we are doing now and what we will be considering going forward to make sure we and our families are safe in our building. Chief Rinehart will also join us for Kiddush lunch to answer any questions or address any concerns individuals may have.
This Shabbat we will have two armed, uniformed police officers guarding the building, grounds, and atrium entrance. The doors will be locked from the outside, with access to the building using your key fobs at the parking lot door. If you do not yet have a fob, we will be able to greet you at the door and arrange for you to have a fob for future access. If you prefer not to use electronic devices on Shabbat, please notify me or Ari by Friday morning so that we may appropriately accommodate you. Locking our doors is important for our security. If you have questions or concerns about this policy, please do not hesitate to contact Ari or me. Further adjustments to our security protocols are still under discussion and we will provide those details as they are finalized.
A number of the rabbis who are part of our Agudas community have graciously agreed to contribute their presence and lend a voice to helping us acknowledge and navigate these challenging times during services this Shabbat. They will be joining me on the bima to share passages from our tradition to help us regain our orientation and face this awful tragedy. Please join us.
As your spiritual leader I know this is a period of emotional turmoil for our community. Our Jewish tradition and our basic humanity tell us that coming together will always be part of the solution. Let that which binds us together continue to strengthen us, and may life and goodness prevail.
B’Yedidut (with friendship),
Rabbi Mitch Levine