A message from Richard Siegel
President, Temple Beth Am
To My Temple Beth Am Community,
I hope this message finds you and your loved ones safe and well. It is with a heavy heart and a deep sense of responsibility that I write to you today concerning the recent Hamas attack in Israel.
For context, my wife Jackie, daughters Allison and Abby, and I departed JFK on October 6th for our first “real” family vacation since the pandemic – Italy for my birthday! Arriving Saturday morning, we were on our way to our hotel when our devices all started vibrating with “breaking news” from Israel. As we read the early accounts, it soon became clear to me that this was something far different than Hamas’ “normal” acts of aggression against our homeland, which are typically defended by the Iron Dome and followed by a tactical response from the IDF and, ultimately, a ceasefire. No, this was different. The most uneasy part for me was that, as I was continually monitoring the “live updates” (which grew more frequent and more ominous), I realized that just about everyone I cared about on the planet was asleep and unaware of what was transpiring. It was as if I was getting a “sneak preview” of a tragedy that no one was yet aware of, and it sickened me…
First and foremost, words cannot adequately describe the devastation we all feel from Hamas’ inhumane and unforgivable acts perpetrated against our beloved Israel and its people, including the many innocent civilians who were killed and taken captive. The horror and sadness we are all feeling is unlike anything I have ever experienced and, while I don’t believe “ranking tragedies” is a worthwhile effort, for me personally these events are more disturbing than September 11th, to which the invasion of Israel is often being compared. I am profoundly concerned that Israel is currently facing an existential threat that I have not experienced in my lifetime, a threat we must overcome with every resource we can bring to bear.
As Jews, we are bound not only by our faith but also by the enduring principles of justice, compassion, and peace. These recent events remind us of the complex and deeply rooted challenges facing the people of Israel and Jews everywhere. Our community condemns these vicious and unprovoked attacks and stands in solidarity with the people of Israel – our brothers, sisters, and friends who are there, and all those protecting the country we hold dear and call home.
Our hearts go out to the innocent lives affected by the violence, and we fervently pray for a swift resolution to the conflict. At the same time, we must also remember our duty to stand together as a community and advocate for a just resolution to this ongoing crisis. In the face of adversity, it is essential that we reaffirm our commitment to the values that define us. We must engage in constructive dialogue, educate ourselves about the complexities of the situation, and actively support initiatives that promote peace, tolerance, and understanding.
I encourage all of you to stay informed about the Israeli situation, engage in thoughtful discussions, and seek ways to make a positive impact, whether through donations to organizations providing humanitarian aid or by advocating for solutions within our broader communities. While I appreciate and support the common sentiment at the moment that one cannot “negotiate with terrorists”, it is also true that we now stand with most of the civilized world in our corner to not only avenge the atrocities rained down upon us but to instill fundamental changes to ensure that no people of any religion, race or nationality should ever have to face the brutality we witnessed in recent days.
Let us also come together as a congregation to offer our prayers and support to Israel during this difficult time. Our faith teaches us that, while the pursuit of peace is a sacred duty, so is the defense of our people and homeland. From this, our commitment cannot diverge. As we navigate these challenging times, Temple Beth Am stands by and supports unconditionally our State of Israel in her time of need – let us stand united in our commitment to justice, compassion, and the enduring hope for a better future.
With heartfelt prayers for peace.
Am Yisrael Chai,