The American Synagogue as a Fortress

The Jewish community’s own wellbeing, and America’s future as an example of compassion, democracy and freedom to the world depend on it.

From the Jerusalem Post — October 21, 2019

By Rabbi Joshua M. Davidson

Hayim Nahman Bialik, the brilliant Hebrew poet, wrote:  “If you wish to know the fortress to which your fathers bore their treasure, their scrolls of Torah, their Holy of Holies…if you would find the refuge which kept your people’s mighty spirit safe…turn to the ancient house of prayer….Your heart will tell you:  your feet touch the threshold of our house of life, your eyes behold the storehouse of our soul.”

Throughout the ages, whether in the shtetls of eastern Europe or the big cities of America, the synagogue has been present for the Jewish people as a symbol of hope and stability even in our darkest hours.

Recently, many American Jews crossed the threshold of their synagogues to celebrate the Jewish Holy Days with an unease they had not experienced before, or at least not in a very long time.  In the wake of the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue one year ago, some synagogues have indeed become fortresses, and not the sort Bialik meant.  Now American Jews grasp what European Jews have understood for years: The synagogue is an institution under siege.

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