Purim Responding to the tragedy in New Zealand

By Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld
Sharon Cohen Anisfeld

Friends,

Our community awoke this past Friday morning to the horrifying news from Christchurch, New Zealand. That a white nationalist, heart distorted by hatred, had entered two mosques and brutally murdered dozens of Muslim worshippers. They were gathered for the weekly Jum’ah prayer.

The death toll has now risen to 50. Another 45 wounded. With them, countless family members, friends, and community members grieving and traumatized. With them, Muslims throughout the world, faced with another stark reminder that the deadly threat of Islamophobia and white supremacist ideology can strike anywhere. With them, all of us.

All of us who, as Jews, know what it feels like to be hunted and haunted by those who believe we are less than fully human. All of us who, as people of faith and conscience, know that we live in an interconnected world, and that bigotry and violence anywhere tears at the fabric of God’s creation. All of us who, as human beings, woke up on Friday morning, horrified, speechless, heartbroken.

May we stay awake. May we not be lulled into indifference. May we turn our heartbreak into acts of connection and lovingkindness. May we reach out, wherever we are, to our Muslim friends, colleagues, neighbors, and let them know we are with them.

For those of us celebrating the holiday of Purim this week, may we remember what it teaches us: That in the face of a world of violence and uncertainty, we are commanded to be responsible for each other. To feed each other. To take care of those in need. To increase shalom, ahava, v’reyut—peace, love, and friendship—in our world.


Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld is President of Hebrew College in Newton, MA.

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