Letter to the Community after the Charleston Shooting

June 18th, 2015Rabbi Sharon Brous

It is beyond belief that in the year 2015 we wake up to headlines reading: Nine Dead as Gunman Strikes a Black Church… Police Call Attack a Hate Crime. 2015. Sixty years after Emmett Till was murdered and Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. A lifetime after Little Rock and Woolworths and Freedom Summer, after Bull Connor and Medgar Evers and the dream that awakened the conscience of our nation and reminded us the great promise of this country. Fifty-two years after four girls were murdered at 16th Street Baptist in what King called one of the most vicious and tragic crimes ever perpetrated against humanity, nine African Americans were murdered in church, as they came together for their weekly Wednesday night prayer service and Bible study.

There are moments that define each one of us as human beings. And there are moments that define us as a nation. Let this moment, this tragedy – a lifetime after Montgomery and Selma, less than a year after Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, one week after Dajerria Becton – let this moment define us as a nation.

Are we a people who denies, lies and hides from the reality of the lingering effects of racism in
this land of the free and home of the brave?

Or are we a nation that can rise up from tragedy and collectively affirm one another’s humanity,
see one another’s struggle as our own?

Are we a nation that obfuscates and repudiates and perpetuates the devastation that comes
from hundreds of millions of weapons of war on our streets, available to every hate-filled or
broken-hearted person with a credit card and a grudge?

Or will we finally now – after yet another mass shooting – stand up together and say NO

Let this moment be the moment.

Let our collective grief and anguish bring us together as a nation, with our love and our fear, our dreams and aspirations, with a fierce and sacred hunger for change. We need to cry together and sing together. We also need to address the root causes and name the painful manifestations of racism in our society. And we need to change gun policy. It’s time.

L’shalom – with blessings of peace for Charleston, and for us all –

Rabbi Sharon Brous

PS. Send a message to the people of Emanuel AME in Charleston, SC, to let them know that they are not alone – that the Jewish community and good people everywhere reach out in solidarity with condolences and prayers for healing. Click here to send your note.