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Editorial: A time to remember and observe

November 26, 2018

The Jewish celebration of Shabbat begins each Friday at sunset and ends each Saturday evening when three stars appear in the night sky.

It is a time of peace. It is a time of remembrance and observation. It is a time begun when candles are struck against the shadows, and ended with a blessing that gives thanks for the separations of what is sacred and what is not, for what is light and what is dark, for the six days of labor and the day of rest.

Pittsburgh’s Jewish community had its Shabbat shattered last week. This week, it begins with a realization of what it lost. Across the nation and the world, people are celebrating Shabbat with Pittsburgh even as they mourned the 11 lives lost in last week’s attack on the Tree of Life synagogue.

“And yet, I am afraid. I am afraid to go to synagogue next Shabbos. But I will and I must. Because the hatred of Jews does not only exist at synagogue,” actress Mayim Bialik wrote on her blog. “We go on. We must.”

She is not alone.

While social media is rich with sharing of #ShowUpforShabbat, the campaign urging people of all faiths to attend a Jewish service this weekend out of support and solidarity for the Tree of Life losses, that is not the only sentiment that is out there.

There is love but also fear. There is faith but also fright. A culture that is 73 years away from the genocide of the Nazi Holocaust has learned a new reason to feel afraid.

“Now, as American Jews, we are confronting the reality that we dreaded and feared -- it could happen here. We are mourning the loss of American Jewish innocence,” wrote Rabbi Noam Marans, the American Jewish Committee’s director of interreligious and intergroup relations, on the AJC’s call to attend services.

Pittsburgh and the surrounding area can empathize. We didn’t want to think it could happen here either.

But as Shabbat comes around again, we all -- Jews and Christians and all religions -- have to confront the possible 12th casualty: the ability to feel safe as you worship.

People could be too afraid to walk through the doors of their synagogue, their mosque, their church. We cannot allow this to be the legacy for 11 people who were the strong, iron armature of their congregations.

We can never let the people who want to win through terror and intimidation gain victory over peace and prayer and the simple act of being what you were born. And so we must stand with our Jewish neighbors and remember and observe.

As the havdalah cup is filled with wine to overflowing in symbolism of abundant blessings, we must exhibit abundant love.

As the aromatic spices are inhaled for rejuvenation, we must give thanks for the breaths we take.

As the braided candle with multiple wicks is lit, let us remember that we are many people, many cultures, many faiths, brought together as one.

Shalom. Peace.

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