Progressively Speaking: How do we react to yet another fatal shul attack?
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Progressively Speaking: How do we react to yet another fatal shul attack?

Rabbi Sandra Kviat reflects on a topical issue with a progressive Jewish response

Mourners gather for the funeral of Lori Gilbert-Kaye, who was killed in a shooting at a San Diego County synagogue on April 27, 2019
Mourners gather for the funeral of Lori Gilbert-Kaye, who was killed in a shooting at a San Diego County synagogue on April 27, 2019

The news of yet another attack on a synagogue, this time in San Diego, reached us at the end of last month. Another attack, another death, another family and community devastated.

It is easy to react with fear and anger and to rightfully demand more security and greater police protection.

But we risk ending up being Fortress Judaism if we’re not careful, impenetrable but also inaccessible. We risk letting others who wishes us harm to decide how we should live our lives.

My hometown of Copenhagen was attacked four years ago. Dan Uzan, a gentle basketball loving giant whom I knew from school, was brutally torn from the community he so loved, and the Jewish communities in Copenhagen were left in tatters.

The first reaction was a massive police and army presence at any Jewish occasion, armed in a way that has never been seen before in Denmark.

At first we felt a strange kind of cold comfort, but as the years went by members began to question the presence, and the efficacy of this protection.

For though we are of course very grateful for the protection, it doesn’t change the situation.

And so a different response came from the Jewish community, with the support of the Council of Copenhagen and the European Jewish Fund, to create a website with trustworthy information about Judaism in all its complexity and colour, showcasing all the different strands of Judaism.

The Jewish Information Center (https://joediskinfo.dk) reaches out to all Danes, explaining and engaging people in a positive and informative conversation about what it means to be Jewish today, debunking myths and prejudices. And that will in the end have a much longer reach.

Protection is important, but that is just one piece of how we must react.

As it says on the memorial plaque for Dan at the synagogue: “Evil can be vanquished through human kindness alone. Kindness takes courage.”

Sandra Kviat is rabbi at Crouch End Chavurah

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