By Rabbi Lizz Goldstein, Congregation Ner Shalom
The media has largely moved on to news about the election results and will soon start reporting on winter storms and holiday festivities, but many of us in the Jewish community are still reeling from the antisemitic massacre at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27. Many synagogues across the country are talking about how to increase security measures, and many Jews with inherited trauma from their parents and grandparents are asking themselves if it’s time to update their passports and prepare a “go bag.”
While worshippers at Congregation Ner Shalom are talking about ways to enhance our security systems (and welcome donations for that effort at nershalomva.org/be-a-light.html), we are not preparing to leave Prince William County. Throughout the week following the shooting in Pennsylvania, many people from various other houses of worship around the county called and emailed us to send condolences, to wish us peace, to let us know they stand in solidarity with us, and to ask if we would be participating in the nationwide #ShowUpForShabbat initiative for solidarity Shabbat services. Many guests joined us at our Friday night service that week: Jews who were not members or regular synagogue-goers, non-Jews, the Boy and Girl Scout troops and their parents from Dar al-Noor, and Prince William County Police Chief Barry Barnard.
The show of support from the community was truly heartwarming and sent a clear message for our community and to those that might wish us harm. Prince William County is united against hate, strong in its diversity, and supportive in its desire to learn from one another to form strong friendships across racial and religious divides. Prince William County is a welcoming home for Ner Shalom, and we are not going anywhere. No emergency go bags necessary.
Now, in the aftermath of the tragedy and the beautiful solidarity Shabbat, there is no better time to join us for a service or stop by on a Sunday morning for a bagel with our Sisterhood. We invite you all to come learn more about what we have in common and where our differences are that make each of us unique and special. Before you know it, the winter holidays will be here and with them, their petty controversies and misunderstandings about what each of our holidays are about. Chanukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, begins on the evening of Dec. 2. It is a minor festival, but important to us because we need something to rally around during its proximity to the most celebrated holiday in the country, and it has become a great time for Jewish communities to come together and bring light and warmth into the dark cold of winter. Come learn and light up the darkness with us.
Lizz Goldstein is the rabbi at Congregation Ner Shalom in Woodbridge, the only synagogue in Prince William County. She resides in Vienna and also works to build Jewish community among millennial activists in the DC area. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through nershalomva.org/.