Response to the Las Vegas Shooting

By Rabbi Michael Z. Cahana

Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD! (Ps. 130:1)

We are in the depths of sorrow, of fear. A senseless act of domestic terror has touched the soul of our nation. Every one of us can imagine ourselves on that field, innocently enjoying an outdoor concert, the sun fading and the music winding down. Suddenly to have our innocence shattered by sprays of bullets from a towering building; the firecracker pops, the bodies dropping; the panic and confusion as crowds of people scatter and seek refuge or escape. Innocence gone in the incessant and merciless gunfire. Someone, hidden behind reflective windows meticulously prepared for this moment, spreading indiscriminant death and injury. What kind of person does this? What kind of society, outside the terrible confines of war, lives like this?

Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD!

We mourn – an entire nation mourns. It could have been us, we could have been there. No one deserved it, no family deserved to have their loved ones ripped from their embrace in such a malicious act. We are too numb, too raw, too afflicted by the relentless, repetitive, merciless drumbeat of the euphemistic expression: Mass Shooting. More like “Mass Murder,” “Deranged Multiple Assassination,” “Unleashed Weapons of Mass Destruction.” In our cities. In our nation. How long can this go on, O LORD? How long?

Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD!

While we mourn our dead and tend our wounded, we are numb. Sympathy and compassion reign. But within us grows a cry, which emerges to a howl proclaiming “no more!” Can we heed it? Will we have the courage to act against complacency? Will we challenge the cynicism that declares nothing will change? Will we shatter systems that bind us and trap us in spirals of death? This is not normal. We cannot accept it as normal. How long, O LORD? How long?

Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD!

And G-d quietly answers: what are YOU going to do?

Hurricane Harvey - How to Help

We have all been moved by the tragedies we’ve seen unfolding in Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. The nation’s 4th largest city overwhelmed with floodwater, the many smaller towns nearly destroyed, overwhelming stories of fear and of heroism. So many of us have friends and family who are among those affected. The Jewish community of Houston has been hit hard, as well. It is estimated that 71% of Houston’s Jewish population lives in areas that have seen massive flooding. Some 12,000 elderly members of the Jewish community live in impacted areas. Jewish institutions have not been spared. The Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center of Houston has taken on water and the sanctuary of Congregation Beth Israel of Houston has been badly damaged. Both buildings have also been centers for food distribution and shelter, helping others even as they need help themselves. Outside Houston, the Reform Movement’s Greene Family Camp, in Bruceville, Texas, has opened its doors to families seeking shelter.

The Jewish concept of Tzedakah is to do what is right by those who are in need. It is our Jewish call to action. There are many ways to help those afflicted in Texas. The American Red Cross is accepting donations as is, locally, the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland. We support their efforts. In addition, our partnership with our Reform Jewish institutions offers a special call.

We are supporting our colleagues at URJ Greene Family Camp as they shelter an increasing number of evacuees, just as URJ Camp Jacobs did after hurricane Katrina. Greene has asked for direct help in providing gift cards to those they are sheltering, who often come with minimal supplies and need help rebuilding their lives.

As the CBI community, we will be collecting gift cards of any amount to national stores (specifically Walmart and Target) and will be mailing these directly to the URJ Greene Family Camp, for them to disseminate. Please drop the gift cards off at our office or mail them in to CBI; attention: Greene Family Camp.

If you would like to make a monetary contribution, you can do so by calling the CBI office at 503-222-1069 and we will purchase cards on your behalf.

In Response to the Events in Charlottesville, VA - August 12, 2017

In Response to the Events in Charlottesville, VA - August 12, 2017

By Rabbi Michael Z. Cahana

Shabbat normally offers the Jewish people a respite from the world that is, and a glimpse of the world to come. Rest, renewal and peace are the order of the day, and one can dream that everyone will live in harmony.

That vision was shattered this week, as images from Charlottesville blasted into our lives. Even as we tried, we could not help but be overwhelmed by the slogans of hatred washing over us like polluted waves leaving patches of tar on a pristine beach. We thought we knew America. We thought we knew those who love America. Who are these so-called “patriots” whose purpose of gathering is to proclaim a vision of America rooted in Nazi ideology?

As the son of a survivor, I grew up with my mother’s stories of a people who loved their nation and felt more Hungarian than Jewish. Their national pride did not protect them when the Nazis came marching, proclaiming a racist ideology. Their nationalist identity did not shield them from their neighbors – yesterday they were friends – who suddenly treated them as aliens in their own homeland. Their homes were ransacked, their possessions appropriated, and these loyal citizens of their nation were brutalized and deported for the crime of their Jewish heritage. The Nazi vision came true. White Supremacy prevailed.

That these same Nazi flags, these same horrific slogans could be carried through the streets of our American cities should fill us all with shame. Patriots and heroes of all races and religions fought and died in a world war to destroy this hateful ideology. It was my mother’s generation, “the Greatest Generation” that stood up to this organized hatred and bigotry. They were not perfect, their time was not perfect. Institutional racism was a reality in the US, immigration quotas against Jews – including refugees – was an accepted reality. But they were engaged in a quest which we should only be building on. How we have disappointed them by seeing Nazi paraphernalia openly carried by so-called militia members brandishing military-style weaponry. Just like an invading army. These are not patriots, these are enemies against the very ideals of America “with Liberty and Justice for All.”

The President is correct that this hatred is not new. He is absolutely wrong in refusing to personally call out White Nationalism as an evil that is corroding the very heart of our nation. It is an abdication of duty to neglect declaring Nazism unacceptable in America. The lack of condemnation is noticed, and has been cheered, by the very purveyors of hate on display in Charlottesville.

We cannot be silent. Even on Shabbat.

We stand with the heroes who put themselves in harm’s way. We stand with those who peacefully protested. We stand with the victims killed and injured by an act of domestic terrorism perpetrated by a White Nationalist. We stand against ideologies of bigotry and racism. We stand for the richness of diversity, honor and respect which makes our nation truly great.

As someone who loves this country, a nation founded on the ideal of freedom and which offers protection for its richly diverse people, I proclaim myself a Patriot. Today I am saddened. But I am not discouraged. America is better than this. Americans are better than this. We will not be silent and we will not be complacent. Let us our voices ring out and let us loyally “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof (Leviticus 25:10).”

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