Proud to be Jewish

November 1, 2018 in Rabbi Greg Harris

I am proud to be Jewish, even in these difficult days.

In these past days, I have cried with people and sometimes hugged when words felt inadequate. Rabbi Werbin, Hazzan Fradkin and I have spent time with Beth El students and adults responding to the tragedy in Pittsburgh.  We have had gatherings in the sanctuary and conversations in the hallways. We have sung, prayed and been silent together in response.

I have been asked to share my remarks which I have offered, with variations, to different gatherings these past days.  I said:

‘I am proud to be Jewish.

‘I will not let the (fill in the age appropriate descriptive: bad person / domestic terrorist / hater / murderer) make me doubt my place as a Jew in America.  I will not give him the power to make me retreat, to be quiet or not stand up against hateful words and actions.

‘I am proud to be Jewish.

‘None of us should forget our good fortune for being Jewish in America.  Hate has no place in our community. Hate has no refuge in our land. And while hate does persist, we must not tire from pushing against it.  We will not stop calling out those spewing division on Twitter or hate by other means.

‘Words influence.  Words create.  Words inspire.  Words lead to actions… and we are responsible for the consequences from our words. Words spoken from our highest leaders to our neighborhood grocer matter.  So, hear my words: be proud to be Jewish; be compassionate to others in this time of sorrow; be engaged in making our community stronger – today, on November 6, and every day thereafter.

‘As part of Am Yisrael, we are interconnected when horror strikes Jews in Pittsburgh or Israel or elsewhere.  We have become more closely tied with other peoples of faith whose worship space was violated by hate and bullets.  Tree of Life’s sanctuary was breached just as the worship spaces at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas (2017) and the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina (2015).

‘At Beth El, our leadership will continue to be proactive with security.  So let’s be proud to be Jewish and never ashamed or made passive or fearful in coming together to pray, to learn, to gather and now, to mourn the 11 murdered at Tree of Life Congregation.’

I know we are not facing this tragedy alone.  There has been an outpouring of support and caring from Beth El’s neighbors and Bethesda’s churches. We have received calls and emails, flowers and fruit baskets.  The following statement was authored by Rev Jenny Cannon at BUMC and Rev Roy Howard at Saint Mark.  Twelve Houses of Worship have signed onto this statement of solidarity.

Together as people of faith, we condemn the hateful act of violence that targeted a Jewish congregation in Pittsburgh today. Our hearts are broken for this loss of life and all who are grieving or afraid in its wake. As neighbors, friends and Jewish and Christian communities, we reject anti-Semitism in all its forms as well as any acts of hatred and violence toward another. We are deeply saddened that once again gun violence has shattered the lives of innocent people. We renew our commitment to stand together in faith and to continue our shared work for God’s peace.


* Saint Mark Presbyterian * Bethesda United Methodist Church * Congregation Beth El

* Bradley Hills Presbyterian * Trinity Lutheran * St. Raphael’s Roman Catholic Church

* Chevy Chase United Methodist Church * Bethesda Presbyterian Church * St. John’s Episcopal Church

* Ohr Kodesh Congregation * St. Luke’s Episcopal Church * Congregation Har Shalom


Across the country, this upcoming Shabbat has been designated Solidarity Shabbat.  At Beth El, we will gather Friday night for a traditional service (6:30pm in the Library) and for Shir Yachad (7pm) to sing together as our voices rise above hate.  On Saturday morning, we will complete a service which was cut short in Pittsburgh last week.  The Early Service will gather, as it does each week (7:30am), in the Swoff Chapel.  We will celebrate life with a bar mitzvah in the Bender Sanctuary (beginning at 9:15am), the Worship & Study Minyan (10am) will meet in the Swoff Chapel and another bar mitzvah celebrated in the afternoon.  We mark tragedies…  and always embrace life.

Let’s join together for Solidarity Shabbat and always be proud to be Jewish.