JCRC Update | November 21, 2014

Terrorism in Israel
At 7 a.m. Jerusalem time on Tuesday, November 18, two terrorists from East Jerusalem burst into a synagogue in the Har Nof neighborhood of Jerusalem and killed four people wounding several others, with axes, knives and a 9mm pistol. A fifth person died of his wounds later in the day. Police arrived at the scene shortly afterwards, engaged in a shootout with the terrorists and killed them.

The photos from the scene are absolutely horrible, as prayer shawls were covered in blood. Three of the victims were dual American-Israeli citizens and a fourth was a dual British-Israeli citizen.

Condemnations are coming in from all over the world, and the leaders of most European countries are outraged. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has condemned today’s tragedy, but Hamas, Islamic Jihad have praised it. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine has claimed responsibility.

Secretary of State John Kerry has condemned the attack, and interestingly has indirectly blamed President Abbas, accusing him of incitement through his calls for “Days of Rage.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu has promised a “heavy hand” in response to the attack.

The Jewish Community of Louisville condemns in the strongest terms the horrific act of terror perpetrated against innocent people praying in a synagogue. We hope that the people of Israel will once again know peace.

This past week saw the 76th anniversary of Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, the night when state-sanctioned violent protests erupted all over Germany destroying synagogues, Jewish-owned businesses and Jewish lives through the mass arrests of thousands of Jews. These horrible acts, in many cases, were committed by civilians who were the neighbors and friends of the very people they were attacking. There were, unfortunately, very few examples of Germans protesting what was going on right under their noses.

This week, I was fortunate enough to accompany students from St. Francis of Assisi Middle school when they went to the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. Invited by their amazing teacher, Fred Whittaker, Holocaust survivor Fred Gross shared his personal story of survival, and Cantor David Lipp provided a Jewish and educational context for what the kids were experiencing.

We spent five grueling hours touring this amazing museum where, in addition to the exhibit itself, the architecture and interior design also tell the story of the Holocaust. One of the themes of the tour that Whittaker gives is bearing witness and remembering, and two of the universal lessons are never forget and never again.

The Museum devotes time and space to tell how the Holocaust began, and it began very small, with not enough people taking what Hitler was saying and doing very seriously. Kristallnacht was just one example of how the average Germans did not speak out, even though they knew what was going on with Jews who were their countrymen just a short time before.

Cantor Lipp started talking about the concept of the innocent bystander and how in Judaism there is no such thing. When Jews see injustice, we are required NOT to stand idly by but to always pursue justice. It is a fascinating concept, and I believe it informs much of what our community stands for today.

One form of our pursuit of justice is our dedication to tikkun olam, the repair of the world. In pursuit of tikkun olam, our JCRC sponsored a volunteer blitz this past Sunday. Project Warm is an organization that provides cold weather insulation for low-income seniors and disabled people, a population that is particularly vulnerable to cold winters and expensive heating bills. It was wonderful to see our Jewish community respond with many teams, from many synagogues, families working together, including a grandfather and granddaughter working in homes together.
Our Jewish Community Relations Council is the conduit in our community both for learning more about the Holocaust and its lessons, and for acts of social justice. Just in the past year, we have advocated for stricter gun laws, increased funding for food stamps and for marriage equality.

Our work with Project Warm is but one example of future opportunities for direct hands-on work that we will be doing in the upcoming months. If you would like more information, please contact me.

Interfaith Chanukah Party
The JCRC will, once again, be hosting its signature annual gathering, the Interfaith Chanukah Party, on December 21 at 5 p.m. in the JCC Auditorium. There will be latkes and sufganiyot, candle lighting, and music from Cantor Sharon Hordes, Cantor David Lipp and local musician, Gareth Jones.

However, there are two things unique to this year’s party. We will be collecting mittens, gloves and scarves, to donate to the 15th District PTA Clothing Assistance Program, which helps clothe over 6,000 children in our community. We will also be honoring Terry Taylor, the retiring executive director of Interfaith Paths to Peace, a local organization that is dedicated to interfaith understanding and cooperation. Terry is a real mensch in every sense of the word, and we wish him the best in whatever he does post-retirement.
On behalf of the JCRC, I wish all of you a healthy and hearty Thanksgiving.

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