By Lee Chottiner
As authorities restored order to the U.S. Capitol following its three-hour takeover Wednesday by a lawless mob, Louisville rabbis sought to counsel and comfort worshippers who were feeling a range of emotions and likely never expected to see such a sight.
As members of Congress convened to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election, hundreds of supporters of President Donald Trump surged up the steps. They poured into the seat of American democracy, breaking windows, looting, and occupying the House and Senate chambers. Members of the Congress and their staffs were quickly ushered to secure locations or took cover in the galleries.
Many observers referred to the takeover as a coup attempt. Others noted that the Capitol had not sustained such an assault since the War of 1812.
Deb Frockt, CEO of the Jewish Career & Family Services, said some of her clients who have fled countries where political violence is the norm. reached out to the agency Wednesday expressing “utter shock [at] what they thought they had left behind.”
As order slowly returned to the Capitol, Jewish clerics in the Derby City reached out to their worshippers. Rabbis Robert Slosberg, David Ariel-Joel and Beth Jacowitz Chottiner sent out letters of support to their congregations. They also prepared to address the developments during their Shabbat sermons – and at least one held a special Zoom program – to give people the space to express what they were feeling.
“As a congregation, just as the new year begins, let us draw strength and solidarity from the knowledge that, no matter our political party or preferences, we all care deeply and work toward wholeness, in our country and the society in which we live,” wrote Ariel-Joel of The Temple.
Ariel-Joel quoted Rabban Shimon ben Gamaliel, who said, “On three things does the world stand: “On justice, on truth, and on Shalom (peace, wholeness and wellness).”
He added, “Rabban Gamaliel understood that civil society must rest on shared, civic commitments to justice, truth, and shalom. Without these, the world as we know it cannot stand.”
He also said he planned to use special prayers from the Central Conference of American Rabbis during Shabbat to address the Capitol takeover.
Slosberg, of Adath Jeshurun, said in his message to the AJ community that January 6, 2021 “will be remembered as an infamous day in American history.
“The fact that the mob was incited by the President of the United States is shocking,” Slosberg continued. “Each of us, regardless of the candidate for whom we voted, must be appalled and horrified by this violent assault on our democracy.”
He also added thanks to Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Mitch McConnell for their “wise words and actions,” saying the nation now “hopefully may begin the long journey to heal as a nation.”
Slosberg also attached a lengthy statement from the Conservative movement in response to the “attack.”
Jacowitz Chottiner, of Temple Shalom, organized a Zoom call Wednesday during which participants could express their feelings and share their thoughts and questions about what had happened.
“This is a scary day for us,” Jacowitz Chottiner said in a message to the TS community Wednesday night, “but I believe peace will be restored.”
She also included a prayer, asking God to grant peace: “Bless our country, that it may always be a stronghold of peace, and its advocate among the nations. May contentment reign within its borders, health and happiness within its homes.”
The JFCS is offering brief, individual support sessions by phone for anyone in the community who is experiencing anxiety or trauma during this time. To arrange a phone appointment, contact Anita at firstname.lastname@example.org or 502-452-6341 x250.