We are the Light by Dr. Laura Bernstein, Executive Director

In the words of Rabbi Jonah Pesner, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, “The Torah teaches that God created a world capable of chaos and order. While this can sometimes create moments of despair, it is also the basis for all hope, all light in the darkness.”

In our staff meeting this week we took some time to talk about the recent violence that erupted in Charlottesville and how it impacts us, our families, our congregants, and our community. Various news stories were shared – some of our team members were watching live feeds at the time and some were following tweets and other social media posts. Some of us have been paralyzed and overwhelmed by the abundance of news. We talked about our impressions, our confusion, and our responsibility.

What can we do? What are we obligated to do as Jews? How do we effectively fight antisemitism, racism, and violence against all people?

We can stay strong and we can take stock of our Jewish values. Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) is not just a concept. It’s something that every individual is obligated to contribute to in his or her own way. We can pray. We can volunteer. We can comfort. We can give financial assistance. We can be there for each other.

As our Executive Director, one of my priorities is to provide a safe and secure temple. Another priority is to create a welcoming environment. Sometimes these are in conflict. As a mom I want my daughter to be able to walk around our campus and enter our building freely. I loathe the reality that we need to have increased security at this time and that we need to keep our doors locked; however at the same time I recognize that it’s the best way to secure our building and protect our congregants and staff.

Rabbi Pesner shares “Our world is imperfect, and so we respond with hope. Our world is full of darkness, and so we respond with light.” So what can we do to be the light in the darkness as a response to Charlottesville?

Here are some ways we can shed light in the coming days right here in our own community.

1.      Join us for worship at 6:00 pm this Friday.  Our service will be reflective and uplifting and will honor the lives of those killed this past weekend.

2.      Join our Reform Movement in sharing photos on social media with the hashtag #BeTheLightForJustice. Each action we take may feel small, almost insignificant, but while it will not solve the world’s ills, it has the potential to ease someone else’s pain. Please join the URJ in sharing a picture of yourself holding a candle, and help spread the light.

3.     Donate to organizations and causes that champion the rights and inclusion of all people, regardless of status, orientation, or religion. If you are compelled to support the Jewish congregation in Charlottesville, click here to provide a donation or consider a donation to one of Temple Beth El’s funds that support work in our local community.

4.      Make every day a Mitzvah Day. Drop off items to support Sterling Elementary. Bring in food to supply the Jewish Family Services Food Pantry. Offer to provide transportation to one of our elders to worship services. Thank the people around you for what they do to bring blessings to you, your family, and our community. Acts of kindness – no matter how small or large – bring light to our entire community.

5.      Stop the paralyses and talk. In the coming months, you will learn about an initiative in our congregation to have conversation within our Temple Beth El community and the broader Charlotte Community to confront systemic racism and to bring about a more just society.

Please join me now and in the future as we together move forward with resolve, hope, and action.


One thought on “We are the Light by Dr. Laura Bernstein, Executive Director

  1. Ellen Reich

    Laura, thank you for writing this. I HAVE felt a great deal of overwhelm and paralysis this week. Your affirmation of community and a reminder that small actions are still actions is helpful. I look forward to seeing you Friday evening.

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