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05/07/2019 02:02:22 PM


Many of you have heard me sing Gesher Tzar M’od on the High Holidays:

Kol haolam kulo, gesher tzar m’od. V’ha’ikar, lo l’fached k’lal

Its words are attributed to Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav, a Jewish mystical rabbi. Translated, they read “The whole world is a very narrow bridge and the main thing is not to fear at all.” In challenging times, these words often go through my mind. Now is such a challenging time. My mind is still adjusting to our new reality in the US. While still rare, violent attacks against our houses of worship are no longer unthinkable.

Five weeks ago, I attended a gathering at the Hudson Valley Islamic Community Center. They were reeling in the aftermath of the Christchurch attack and the community went there to show their support. They had a large room set up with chairs. The size of the crowd greatly exceeded their expectations. They had their work cut out for them adding more and more chairs. It ended up with standing room only at the back. Their community was given a clear message that they were not alone. The same is true for us. We are not alone. We have the support of the vast majority of Americans. We have the support of our brothers and sisters at the HVICC. We have the strong support of the Somers police. We must not be ruled by fear. Fear depletes and diminishes us. I felt so sad when I read today about a Jewish woman who was afraid to attend synagogue or to identify as a Jew. It’s an understandable response, but so very unfortunate.

When I lived in California, earthquakes were a reality of our lives. Every place I entered, I’d immediately think “What will I do if an earthquake hits while I’m here?” Then I’d file that information away and proceed to enjoy myself. I didn’t live in fear but I didn’t ignore reality. One day, a 6.3 earthquake hit nearby. I was in the midst of a diaper change with a 1-year-old Joel. Both of us spent the next 45 seconds under a solid desk, my advance plan. Friends of mine were in a bank. They stood and watched in amazement as the huge plate glass window right in front of them undulated. It never occurred to them until later how dangerous their response had been. They had not planned in advance.

We must be wise about our synagogue security. The Yorktown police chief, who spoke at the HVICC gathering, specifically addressed all houses of worship when he said “You must harden your targets. You must make it difficult to get in so that they’ll look and decide to go elsewhere.” He made the point that it’s not just mosques and synagogues but also churches that have been attacked.

I’m so very grateful to Robert Fischer and Harvey Katz, who have been attending to security concerns for our HCS community. As a result of their foresight and hard work, we know what we have to do. However, they can’t do it alone. They need helpers and we need money.

I was raised from a young age to understand that both our effort and our money are needed to help our community and make the world a better place. While we all have different levels of available time and money, I encourage each of you to do whatever possible to help make HCS a place where we can join together to worship, eat, learn and be together in joy and safety.



Ruth Ossher

Wed, July 8 2020 16 Tammuz 5780