When Rabbi Heschel returned from marching from Selma to Montgomery, he reflected on the meaning of the experience to him: "Even without words," he observed, "our march was worship.  I felt my legs were praying."

This week at Heschel, we came together as a community to mourn the horrible loss of life in the massacre in Pittsburgh last Shabbat, as well as the virulent anti-semitism that fueled the violence.  Together we have prayed. We prayed for the memories of the victims, for the healing of the Pittsburgh community, and for peace in our nation and world.  And, as we prayed, again and again, our students expressed their conviction that we need, not just to pray, but also to take action.

Our students began to take action during the school week.  Some wrote letters of condolence to the Tree of Life community.  Others wrote thank you notes to the police officers that were wounded apprehending the perpetrator.  Our High School Hesed Counsel began collecting tzedakah for the funeral costs and expenses of the victims' families.

Now, as Shabbat once again approaches, I invite all of us to continue to take action and to pray with our legs.  I hope that we can all find ways to be a part of actively challenging and repairing the violence of last Shabbat.  To jumpstart your thinking, consider these suggestions for some of what we can do that were offered by our seventh graders when asked to create a work of art in the style of Keith Haring with a message for action after Pittsburgh

Please share your ideas for action with me and with your friends.  In the meantime, I want to offer you just a few possibilities. I hope that you will each find something to do that feels meaningful to you:


  1. Attend a synagogue this Shabbat: Whether or not that is part of your usual practice, join the international "Show up for Shabbat" campaign spearheaded by AJC.  Go to shul as an act of solidarity with the Pittsburgh community, as a way of asserting that American synagogues will grow and thrive, and as a way to express that we will not be scared of being Jewish in the public sphere.

  2. Give tzedakah to someone impacted most directly by last week's massacre:  Many of us this week have found ways to send money to Pittsburgh's Jewish community.  Keep giving. And, perhaps, consider donating to the GoFundMe pages created to support Tim Matson and Dan Mead, two of the police officers, now recovering from their injuries, who rushed into the Tree of Life Synagogue to try to stop the attack.  As one of our fifth graders reminded us this week in tefillah, he felt grateful to live in America because the police came to the synagogue right away when they were called.

  3. Vote: Tuesday is Election Day, our chance to participate and strengthen our democracy.  Don't forget to vote. If possible, take your children to vote with you -- we will excuse the lateness of any student who went to vote or went with a parent to vote.  Help us teach our children that voting matters and that they need to make their voices heard. Thankfully, our students are ready to do this work! We hope this video will inspire you to get to the polls on Tuesday.

Thank you for coming together this week, as always, to support one another.  This week, as always, our school buildings are filled with hope and optimism.  Our mission continues to guide us as we teach our students their awesome responsibility to take seriously the power of their words and commit themselves to being active citizens of the world.  And our mission continues to inspire our students to remind us that change is both necessary and possible. As always, Rabbi Heschel's model challenges us to feel the obligation of actively fighting to bring our values to life.

Finally, for those of you who are in our school buildings, as you leave at the end of this week, please take an extra moment to thank Amit and the members of our security team who keep us safe each and every day.  I am grateful beyond words for their commitment and bravery.

Here's to the powerful prayers of our legs (and hands and hearts and souls and minds) and to the many, many ways we can each work to repair some broken corner of our world.

With great hope that our prayers of all kinds will bring peace, justice, healing, and a Shabbat shalom,




Early Childhood Center • Henry Lindenbaum Lower School • Alan B. Slifka Middle School
30 West End Avenue, NYC 10023 • 212 784-1234
High School • 20 West End Avenue, NYC 10023 • 212 246-7717

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