Entering Shabbat: A Time for Healing and Gratitude

Last Shabbat, I spent the morning moving my son Gabriel into his dormitory at Clark University. I know, not a typical Shabbat morning activity for a Rabbi; but when your child’s college sets the move-in time, a parent is not going to argue.

I returned home, cold and exhausted, trying to warm up and relax. Not long after I got home, I received a text and a phone call almost simultaneously from two different friends: “Turn on CNN” and “Are you sitting down? I need to make sure you know something…” They were talking about the hostage situation at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas. It was frightening and horrifying, and finally, after 11 hours of being held at gunpoint, Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker helped the other hostages escape. That’s the short version.

I told my husband Jonathan that Colleyville was my second worst nightmare.

Now, almost a week later, many of us are still processing what happened to these four hostages. What will now forever be a part of history to the small, once unknown Jewish community of Colleyville, and to our global Jewish community. It has echoes of too many other recent attacks: Tree of Life in Pittsburg; Chabad in Poway, CA; a Kosher supermarket in Jersey City; and so many more.  With the image of the white supremacists marching in Charlottesville there as well.

I imagine each of us is responding differently to the events of last Shabbat – how could we not? There are so many layers to what happened, to our own histories and personal traumas, to the communal trauma we continue to live in, and to how much our hearts and heads can handle.

Some of us may be numb or even desensitized; after all, gun violence is so commonplace.

Some of us may be angry and horrified because gun violence is so commonplace.

Some of us may be reliving all the anti-Semitic events of our past, or it has triggered other personal traumas.

Some of us may be grateful that they survived, and proud of Rabbi Charlie’s actions.

Some of us may be so tired and exhausted, we don’t know how to describe our feelings even if we try to.

Some of us may be scared to go to temple.

Some of us may be demanding that we never unlock our doors again to protect our members, following the Jewish value of saving lives.

Some of us may be emphasizing the Jewish value of welcoming the stranger, reminding us that this essential value cannot be compromised, because then who are we?

Some of us may be thinking about the reports of escalating Anti-Semitic incidents, and in fear for ourselves and our people.

Some of us may have heard the story, been relieved that no one died, and then moved on to respond to how our life is calling out to us.

For some of us, this feels surprisingly personal.

The “Some of us…” statements could go on and on.

A colleague and mentor of mine referred to this as “The Swirl”.

At times like these, the Jewish community has always responded by gathering in prayer. We need each other, the “some of us” becoming all of us, as we work toward healing, sharing gratitude that the story ended in survival, praying for a future without so much hate, and starting to think about the action that will get us there. We may be online for services, but we are still together.

Entering Shabbat: A Time for Healing and Gratitude – please join special guest Cantor Rosalie Will and Rabbi Valerie Cohen for a musical Shabbat Service. As we leave the week behind us, we do what Jews always do after trauma, whether personal or communal: we gather in prayer. Through our shared presence, with open hearts, and led by music that is both new and familiar and always inspiring, we will set aside this time – making it holy – for healing and gratitude.

Following services, we will gather on Zoom for our Shabbat Schmooze, where there will be an opportunity for people to share how we are feeling as we reflect on the hostage situation that took place last Shabbat at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas.


3 thoughts on “Entering Shabbat: A Time for Healing and Gratitude”

  1. A very poignant and relevant column, Rabbi Valerie. Indeed, a swirl of feelings and emotions. So much to say but not able to say them, other than thank you for your leadership and the risks that I know you — and all of our congregational leaders — take each day. That’s where my thoughts went upon hearing this news on Saturday. Thank goodness for the outcome in Texas.

  2. Really helpful message, thank you! Your mention of Charlottesville reminded me that a brave and intrepid group pursued the supremacists who marched, in court and were victorious. Hitting the Supremacists in their pockets while showcasing their cruelty and violence. That and the outpouring of support for the Colleyville hostages gives me hope.

  3. I pushed everything about this crisis back into a little box (as I often do in my daily work). I need to be at services to open up that box and release my feelings and sensibilities. Thank you for writing this piece.

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