I am writing this letter from Israel after awakening to the saddest news that I could possibly imagine. Less than two weeks ago we gathered to express our solidarity with the members of Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania following the tragic murder of eleven beautiful souls during a Shabbat morning service. Our prayer that evening was that such horrific acts of violence would finally come to an end.
Who could know that not only would terrible tragedy continue but that it would take place in our own wonderful community? At a College night at a club for country western music, eleven young people plus a police officer lost their lives because of a deranged man turned shooter. The sadness, the pain, the anguish and the grief that this act caused can not possibly be measured. The loss for our community and our world is unending.
For all of us the sense of vulnerability is so very real. We thought we lived in one of the safest communities anywhere. We thought that the world was full of violence but that we were immune. Today, I could not help but reflect on the fact that often people have said to me over the years “You are traveling to Israel, aren’t you afraid?” Yet this morning we received a call from an Israeli cousin of Linda’s to say “Turn on the news...there has been a disaster in Thousand Oaks where your Temple is.”
Please know that from our Holy Land I am thinking of Thousand Oaks and all of the victims and their families. On this Shabbat I will be praying at the Kotel (the sacred Western Wall surrounding the Temple Mount). At this sacred site, I will be praying for peace and well being for Jerusalem as I always do, and I will be praying for peace and strength and comfort for the mourners in Thousand Oaks, in the Conejo Valley and beyond at this tragic and heartbreaking moment.
May the Almighty truly bring consolation and comfort to all the mourners and to all of humankind.
Rabbi Richard Spiegel