Like all of us, I am shocked and disturbed at the hostage situation at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas. I am moved by the Facebook post in which Rabbi Cytron Walker expressed his gratitude. And I too am grateful that he and the others are alive.
From a Mussar perspective, we can and must do more than sending our love and prayers to our siblings in Texas. Our job is to support one another in concrete ways, or as Rabbi Ira Stone reminds us, to “bear the burden of the other.” And support for our fellow Jews is a bedrock value of the Jewish community. So how can we concretely support Congregation Beth Israel and Rabbi Cytron-Walker? Each of us, as individuals, has a responsibility to act. Here are five mussar traits we can practice to help us:
Practice Generosity by donating money to Congregation Beth Israel.
Rabbi Cytron-Walker, the other hostages, and their whole have been through a terrible trauma that will have lasting effects. Money will help pay for therapists and experts to help them through. Moreover, there may be physical repairs, upgrades to security, and food to send to people too upset to cook. You can join me and make a donation by clicking here.
Practice Compassion by writing a letter or sending a card
If you are feeling helpless or would like to do more, send a short note or letter to the Rabbi or Congregation Beth Israel. If your kids are scared, help them feel empowered by making a card or drawing for the Rabbi and community. Fellow Rabbinical student and child psychologist Dr. Jody Kussen said “This is a beautiful, healthy, idea – for any age.”
I have a vision of that scene from the movie Miracle on 34th street when bags and bags of mail show up in the courtroom. We can let them plaster their walls with children’s drawings from around the world.
Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker
Congregation Beth Israel
6100 Pleasant Run Road
Colleyville, Texas 76034
Practice Alacrity by posting on their Facebook page
I wrote a note on the Congregation Beth Israel page letting them know they are loved and supported. Alacrity meets to act now. Is is something all of us can do. Just click here to get started.
Practice Silence by speaking up
Remember that Silence governs when to talk, and when not to talk. This is a time to let your friends know you are hurting, and how we are always a little on guard in Jewish spaces. For example, you can share this poem by Beth Rader.
I also agree with Rabbi Jeff Salkin that we should not let anyone tell us this was not an anti-Semitic attack. Of course it was – he took hostages in a synagogue on Shabbat. He could have gone to a day care center or grocery store; he choose to target us.
Practice “Gratitude And”
There is much to be grateful for in this situation, as many have said. Gratitude is important and essential for Jewish living. But we don’t want to let Gratitude become a means of spiritually bypassing the real pain and horror caused by the desecration of Shabbat by a hostage taker.
It is ok to feel angry, afraid, confused, sad… Don’t jump to gratitude as a way to try to make those feelings go away in yourself or others. We need space for the negative feelings. Gratitude can help us cope, and provide us energy to be there for those who need us.
What else can we do to support Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker and Congregation Beth Israel? How can we help them bear their burden? Please respond in comments – as always I’ll answer every one.