September 20, 2023

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Dov Ben-Shimon Federation CEO

You’ve probably seen that this Rosh Hashanah weekend our community – like many others – was subject to “swatting” incidents, in which bomb threats were called in to local police forces and directed at our synagogues. It’s an evil, disgraceful and sickening attempt by people who hate Jews to disrupt our lives, create terror, and show their intolerance. As each case was reported here, our Chief Security Officer, Chip Michaels, updated me, and he and our security team liaised with local law enforcement, with the synagogues in question, and made sure that everyone was doing what they were trained to do. We’re blessed to have thoughtful, smart, and dedicated clergy and synagogue professionals who led with distinction and cool-headedness. I want to stress: our Federation’s commitment to security preparedness, training, and response remains absolute. In preparation for the High Holydays, the Greater MetroWest Community Security Initiative convened a Security Townhall for synagogue and agency executives and clergy, personally visited numerous synagogues to review security plans and share expertise, and updated our synagogue and agency executives on trends, threats, and best practices for securing their facilities. In the past few months our Federation’s security team have conducted numerous training sessions reaching hundreds of members of the community. And there’s more for us to do. Check that your synagogue has received training and knows what to do, ensure that your synagogue is in full communication with local law enforcement, and don’t hesitate to call Federation’s Community Security Initiative if you have any questions or concerns. Sometimes, in the face of so much evil, hatred, and terror, you can feel lost and overwhelmed. How to explain to people how awful it is, once again, to have to pick up your phone on Shabbat or erev Rosh Hashanah because of another bomb threat in one of our synagogues. How to explain to people that in our houses of worship there are panic buttons and armed guards and police patrols. And active shooter training. And stop-the-bleed training. And more. It can all make you feel like you can’t do anything. But strong, resilient communities don’t give up in the face of hate and terror. They do more. In Hebrew we say: Mitzva goreret mitzva מצוה גוררת מצוה– the answer to hate is more good deeds. More teaching, more community building, more showing up. That’s not just good theology. It’s good sociology. Because actions speak louder than words. We build resilient, strong community life by working even harder on tzedakah (justice/charity), chesed (loving kindness), and tikkun olam (repairing the world). We restore balance to society by actively helping those in need, caring with compassion, and saving others. These are American values, they are Jewish values, and they are the work of our Jewish Federation and our Jewish community, day in and day out.  Not to tear each other down, but to stand stronger in the face of sinat chinam — baseless hatred. We build community because there’s no better promise for the future than building it together. Don’t wait for others.Turn up. Show up. Stand up. Gmar Chatima tova, may you be sealed with goodness in the Book of Life.

Photo by Len Radin