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A Response to the Community

10/13/2023 12:05:17 PM


Thank you to each and every one of you who has reached out to me, to Amy, to Matt over the last few days, sharing of what you need from Or Shalom. I am incredibly humbled to be serving as your rabbi at a time of such deep grief, heartbreak, and fear, and I know that I – that we – are falling short. How could we not be? We are only human, staring into the face of the inhumane.

What I have been both surprised and unsurprised to learn is that we all have vastly different needs at this time. That is what it means to be in a diverse, welcoming community. Some of us desire Or Shalom to take a political stance at this time (and the political stances we have been asked to take by different members of the community are quite varied). Some want resources. Some want to feel seen and witnessed in their pain, and don’t feel that they are adequately being witnessed and seen. Some just feel utterly alone. And all of these reactions, feelings, and needs are valid.

And let me state in no indefinite terms, any killing of civilians is a war crime. Every single life lost is to be mourned, fully and completely.

A teacher said to me this morning that we are in a time of shiva. It has not even been 6 days since all of this has begun. Since we began to lose so many. And shiva has a very clear protocol as to what we do and don’t do in order to serve us in the process of mourning.

During shiva, we do not work. We disrupt our regular day-to-day activities. We sit on the floor. We don’t bathe, or cut our hair. We cover our mirrors. We don’t concern ourselves with material things or the material world. We allow ourselves to be with the loss. To be with the pain. And to be surrounded by a community of people to comfort and hold us through it.

Therefore, if we are in a period of shiva right now, that means that this is not a time to take action. Whether or not it feels that way, we ourselves are not at war. We are not at war with each other, and we are not at war in the Middle East, even though it has certainly felt in my gut like I am. We need time to feel what we are feeling so that we can approach any action we take from a grounded place – a place of love, of trust, and a place of the inherent knowing of the value of life.

One thing I know about trauma is that it speeds us up. When we are in our trauma bodies, everything feels urgent. Everything needs to happen now. Now. Now. Each minute can feel like an hour as we feel our whole life flash before our eyes. And we are all currently deeply traumatized.

We are deeply traumatized by the constant influx of information. The graphic images of horrific atrocities. The rising death counts. Everyone’s need to have a “take” and make it known. The reactivation of the intergenerational trauma that always lives in our body from generations of antisemitism. Our awareness that this is only the beginning.

And I know, when I am in my trauma body, the actions I often take are out of alignment with my values, and are usually not in my own best interest.

I so deeply want to take action for each and every one of you right now. I want you to feel heard. Held. I want the synagogue to be able to say the exact right thing, to be able to provide the exact right path forward that makes you feel that you have some power and agency in what can only feel like an overwhelming and hopeless situation. But I know, in order to take action, I need to slow down. We need to slow down.

So, this evening, Thursday, October 12, rather than being in the active act of social justice discernment, as we had previously planned, I invite you to come to 333 Cortland and sit shiva with me. Sit shiva for all the lives lost. Sit shiva for the loss of our own sense of safety and security. Sit shiva for what the Jewish community was before this moment of rupture. Sit shiva for the death and destruction that is inevitably to come. Bring yourselves, perhaps a pillow to sit on, and perhaps a dish to share, as we lean on the ancestral wisdom of shiva.

And know, that even from the depths, I am envisioning a path forward, for another world is possible, and the first step in creating it is imagining it. Fortunately, we already have all the tools we need to make that path forward possible.

Reconstructionism has a practice called Values-Based Decision-Making, which is a communal and collaborative process of study to action over the course of a year through which communities make consensus-based decisions. If what we need as a community is a clear path forward, the ability to more swiftly take action and rise to the occasion in future moments of escalation (which, I unfortunately believe there will be), then we need each and every one of us to come together with our hearts and our knowledge-sets and take the time to discern where we are at as a community, where we would like to move, and what is our role. So know that this practice is on my mind and heart so that in the future, Or Shalom can better show up to meet your individual and collective needs.

We also look forward to rescheduling the Tikkun Olam Discernment sessions to a time outside of acute crisis, where the community is more readily available to turn their hearts toward the pressing needs of our San Francisco community and the whole world.

With love and solidarity,

R’ Faryn


Sat, July 20 2024 14 Tammuz 5784