Once again, our community is reeling from an attack on a synagogue, the latest in a series of antisemitic attacks and incidents that have continued to proliferate over the past several years. Like you, I am grateful that those taken hostage this weekend are safe and unharmed physically. I am also struck by the mental anguish this has caused, the ways in which we are all left feeling furious, fearful, frustrated, and exhausted.
So what can we do? When terrible things happen, we always have the power to decide how we will respond, we always have an opportunity to channel our grief, anger, and fear into something generative and holy.
First, we can continue to improve our security practices, strengthening capacity to recognize and respond to dangerous situations to keep those in all of our communal programs and buildings safe. Through the Secure Communities Network, which the Jewish Federations of North America set up in 2004, we will be working to develop an integrated network of security professionals to help each synagogue and Jewish communal institution in Maine meet the needs of this moment.
As you may have heard, training provided by SCN enabled those taken hostage this weekend to make their escape. In the coming weeks and months, we will be sharing more information and asking for your support and involvement – and you can learn more at an upcoming online “BeAware” situational awareness training.
In addition to these critical steps, we can continue to build bridges to other minority religious communities, represent our community proudly in public, and remain vigilant in addressing antisemitism consistently when we see it. With your help, our Community Relations Council (CRC) will in the coming months explore new avenues of collaboration and visibility.
I also want to suggest that this moment presents an invitation to recommit to our tradition and our identity as Jews. To appreciate what Judaism means to us, and honestly reflect on what Judaism asks of us. We all share the vision of a community in which our children can be Jewish joyfully, confidently, knowledgeably, and safely. And strengthening our community will require financial and human resources beyond what we’ve needed in the past.
I am continually humbled and inspired by lay leaders and donors like this year’s Annual Campaign co-Chair Lea Steirman, who moved to Maine three years ago and immediately became involved in the JCA and in synagogue life. For Lea, participating in the JCA’s Annual Campaign is a way to improve our community while living her values.
In whatever way you choose to get involved, now is the moment to do so. We are so grateful to Lea for sharing the story of why she chooses to give, and we hope you will be inspired to become involved and give back in whatever ways feel most compelling to you.
With deepest gratitude and appreciation,
Molly Curren Rowles