Special to SVLfreenews.com

In the wake of last week’s shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue, Congregation Emanuel invited all in the community to its synagogue for a service of Remembrance and Healing. The nearly 100 people attending, limited only by the availability of seating in the sanctuary, welcomed the Jewish Sabbath, and added extra prayers in memory of 11 Jewish synagogue worshippers and the two people killed in Kentucky as the result of a similar hateful act.

The special Shabbat service, organized by Congregation Emanuel members Wendy Gordon Pake and Steve Bograd, proved to be a healing remembrance, as well as a call to action for Tikkun Olam (Hebrew for Repairing the World).

The service was led by Bograd, who also shared an essay he wrote, entitled “History Doesn’t End,” that supports the themes of diversity and solidarity found in this week’s Torah portion, Chayei Sarah (Genesis 23:1-25:18). Opening and closing remarks, offered by the Congregation’s president, Beverly Maurice, included the readings of “A Message for the Baby whose Bris it Was at The Pittsburgh Synagogue” by Zev Steinberg (Kveller.Com) and “My American Dream” by Bill Balatow of Statesville. Congregant Barry Gordon led the congregation in Mi Shebeirach, a prayer for the sick and, more broadly defined as, a prayer for complete healing – both physically and spiritually – for all human beings.

During the service, reflections from the Talmud and other sources were read by both Congregation members and guests from the community, including faith leaders from many local religious organizations.

The “Reflections,” read aloud by audience participants while they each stood at their seats, spoke about the importance of our learning the lessons from the past:

► “Facts are necessary in order to understand history, and the causes and consequences of events. It is our responsibility to learn the facts AND history, not JUST the facts. Well-taught history …prevents us from settling on simple answers to complex questions.” (Sara J. Bloomfield, Executive Director of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum).

►With regard to the ‘daunting enormity of the world’s grief:’ one reflection reminded the worshippers that “You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it” (The Talmud), and that “The past offers an illuminating and clear-headed perspective from which to observe and reconcile our passions of the present. …The practice of history …becomes a kind of conscience for us” (documentary filmmaker, Ken Burns).

►Finally, the thought-provoking readings challenged the participants to “Never Stop Asking Why,” and to study the Holocaust, a case in point of the motivations and implications behind human decisions at every level of society. Facts and education are critical to being a responsible, engaged citizen.

After the Shabbat service, the attendees gathered in Congregation Emanuel’s social hall for an Oneg Shabbat (“Joy of Sabbath”) dessert reception.