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What now? Moving forward after October 7th.

I have felt as if on mute the last month or so. I keep trying to write a blog post and then set it aside. I have been seeking the right words to share, and I keep coming up short. So, this time, I will start with a story. An old story. One that I retell myself in trying to understand my reaction to recent events. This story has been on top of been mind as I hear the stories of those who survived and those who did not survive October 7th.

When I was in middle school my family decided to do a sabbatical year in Israel. We would go live in Kiryat Yam, a suburb of Haifa for my 8th grade year. My brother was in 6th grade and my sister was in 1st grade. In Kiryat Yam we would work to resettle Ethiopian Jews who were rescued by the global Jewish community and flown to Israel. My mother and her family were resettled in the same town over 25 years earlier when they fled from Morocco. My mother was a victim to anti-Semitic violence, including sexual violence. She knew what it meant to flee and make a new home. We would spend a year giving back and helping Ethiopian Jewish families make their new home in Israel.

In preparation for the year in Israel, my mother arranged for our family to go through a special therapeutic process that would train us, the three kids in my family, to be silent and still in case we were attacked by terrorists in our home while living in Israel. For months before we left for our year abroad, I heard endless anxiety from my mother regarding how we, the kids, might act in a crisis situation. She was terrified that we would make noise and freak out. We needed to be prepared not to act like entitled American kids in the case of an emergency. The year we lived in Israel also the start of the first Intifada, a Palestinian uprising.

The year went well. I learned to speak Hebrew. Got to know my Israeli family. Terrorists did not attack us. But deep within me lies my own mother's fear. She was a refugee from Morocco as a teenager herself. She was the victim of anti-Jewish violence, including sexual violence, as a child in Morocco. Her trauma has become my trauma. Her story is my story. Thank God she did not live to see the horror of October 7th.

She did not live, and neither of my parents lived to see the horrors of October 7th, but I did. And it has impacted me deeply. My mother's nightmare came true right before my eyes. Not just for one family but for hundreds, thousands of Israeli families, Jewish and Muslim alike. Children stayed silent for 10, 12, and 14 hours alone in safe rooms, hiding with killers right outside the door. This is exactly what our mother had prepared us for!

She knew. She was a peace activist. Both of my parents were deeply committed to peace between Israel and Palestinians. But she knew the precarious position of the Jewish people living surrounded by enemy states. She worked to turn enemies into friends, to create peace for both nations. But she was also fully aware of the vulnerability of Jews.

She prepared me my entire life for this. For the horrors of anti-Jewish hatred and the violence that can accompany it. She prepared me, but I was not prepared. How could I be prepared for these atrocities? I am still stunned not only by the horrific acts of October 7th but also by the extreme rise in anti-Jewish bigotry and violence all over the world. As a two-rabbi family security is always on our minds, but now it is even more heightened. And I wonder: are we safe anywhere?

I am stunned but not into silence. Not fully. My mantra as a Jewish leader is "keep on keeping on." Move forward no matter what. That is the only direction for our people. I find my voice today as a learner, taking in new and important information to spread it. New ideas for better living on this planet. Rabbi means teacher, and I am engaged in learning daily so that I can best serve our community at this time.

Over the past many weeks, I have engaged in endless workshops and briefings in an attempt to contextualize and make sense of what is going on. As a Jew learning has always been my way of making sense of the world. Other leaders in our Kol Ami community have also been learning and planning. We are all learning how to keep our Kol Ami community safe and how we can aid Israel in being a safe and free society. And how we can promote peace and a just freedom for both Israel and Palestinians.

I want to thank you all for giving so generously in our recent campaign to raise money for security at the synagogue. We have now joined the ranks of Jewish communities all over the world who require armed security in order to gather. And it was the right thing, the smart thing to do. I know I can breathe easier while leading our prayers, knowing someone is guarding us. I hate it, but it is necessary.

Moving forward, please know that we are focused on our security as a community but also on our continued learning in contextualizing what happened and what is still happening. Fear, anxiety, and trauma can be tamed through action: doing something. Not wallowing. Being pro-active. This is also vital for Jewish hope. Knowing that we can create a better world. Feeling empowered to create a better world for future generations.

Each week moving forward, on Thursday nights, we will be offering opportunities to learn more about Israel, anti-Semitism, Zionism, peace-making, and building bridges. These Thursday night "Learn and Digest" sessions are a place for us to ask questions, play with ideas, learn new information, and get to know each other. This Thursday 11/30/23 we will be exploring anti-semitism in the Left and how we got to where we are today.

We are carving out one evening a week to process all that is going on, not alone, but with and through the community. I hope you will join me and be my partner in doing this work. Kol Ami is also working in partnership with the ADL, Project Shema, and the Jewish Community Relations Counsel in our efforts to be engaged, learn more, and act, to heal and transform our current reality into something better: more compassionate, safe, loving, nurturing...

We are looking for community volunteers to help us engage in this work. If you are interested in working on issues related to anti-Semitism, please let me know. We are also looking for people who are interested in helping us work as a community to support Israel and local Israelis. We can be of service to our Jewish family. There is so much we CAN do. Email me at to get involved.

Voiceless, silent, stunned, impacted by words and visuals that reflect some of our worst nightmares...we are all going to heal and grow together. Our Kol Ami community and the Jewish world at large. A new chapter of Jewish civilization opened on October 7th. We still have hostages in Gaza. There is still a war happening. Anti-Semitism (and Islamaphobia too!) is raging. But we will not stop moving forward. We are still marching together towards the promised land. We are survivors. It is a miracle that any of us Jews even exist. Take that to heart: you are a miracle. If you need support or would just like to talk and process what is going on, please make an appointment for a one-on-one on Zoom through my calendly link. I have opened up more time in my schedule to spend time in personal engagement with our community.

My mother knew her children were miracles. We are first-generation Americans and Israelis on her side. She knew how lucky we were to have citizenship in both America and Israel. We had escape routes and options. And she knew that taking her children to live in Israel, even temporarily, was putting us at risk. But she did it anyway because she left Morocco so that we could live as Jews out loud, not hide.

The threats are real. The violence is real. The trauma is real. The uncertainty of the Jewish future is real. But our strength, determination, hope, and dedicated vision for a better world are also just as real. We are building a better world through our Jewish lives and uplifting the highest teachings of our Jewish civilization. We have a purpose as a people. And each and every Jew has a role to play. I hope you have found or will find your unique role in this living out of our values and the dreams of our ancestors.

Our stories, our Jewish stores, are essential to our future. Carrying the part with us opens up new understandings of the present. My stories are helping me find words and inspiration for leading the Jewish people as a rabbi. We are all part of one big story and our stories connect one to the other.

I look forward to praying, learning, studying the Torah, and celebrating Hanukkah in the month ahead. Please know, too, that I am open for one-on-one pastoral counseling to address any tbh that is weighing heavy on your heart. I am also open to engaging in the work of spiritual direction with individuals who are looking to deepen and personalize their Jewish practice. And I want to hear your stories too!

Do not forget to register for our wonderful Hanukkah events.

There is light ahead of us.

And we have each other.

That is our story too.

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