This past weekend, we learned of the horrific shootings in Orlando that represent the worst terrorist attack and the worst gun violence on U.S. soil since 9/11. The gunman specifically targeted the LGBTQ community and early reports indicate that he aligned himself with ISIS. 

The attack in Orlando is incredibly frightening but it is horrifyingly familiar. We recognize the evil of pure hatred that led to these deaths, just as it led to the murder of innocent Israelis in Tel Aviv last week.  We sense the threat of violence in the terrible language that seems to be replacing legitimate political dialogue in our country. Yet these events also clarify our purpose as a Jewish community, and call on us to achieve a higher level of mutual spiritual support and determination. These acts throw a spotlight on the fact that we need each other more than ever.  In the face of violence and a deterioration of political discourse, it is left to civil society and to the civic nonprofit institutions we create to uphold our most important values so they will be forever available to our children and grandchildren.  

Reading Fergus Bordewhich who wrote an excellent account of the first U.S. Congress, I think of the founders of our nation, and ask myself, “What kind of dreams did they have for us? What kind of hopes did they have for our country?” 

We are not going to be the generation that loses that sense of what it means to be Jewish in America, or what it means to be American in America. We will not lose sight of what it means to be part of an open, caring society that doesn’t allow hatred to be the standard for who we are. Our Jewish community will continue to work toward creating a civil society where tolerance and caring predominate, and where people of all backgrounds, orientations and abilities are valued, welcomed and protected. 

Our enemies urge their followers, “Just pick up a gun and shoot people. That’s all we want you to do—you don’t have to consult with us, you will represent ISIS if you kill human beings today.” Their only goal is to get us to be consumed with fear and hate. 

What can we do? We can refuse. We can refuse fear and hate, and instead offer love and compassion. I believe so deeply in the goodness of our Jewish community and the goodness of America.  I know that we will not allow ourselves to be taken over by fear, that we will aspire to a higher spiritual goal, that we will stand together. Together, we’re stronger than any of us are as individuals, and we’re stronger than hatred. 

I’m proud that CJP is contributing $25,000 to WeAreOrlando.org, to provide direct support to those affected by the shootings.

If you would like to join the CJP community in reaching out to those impacted by the mass shooting in Orlando, please visit WeAreOrlando.org, which is the central address for donation collection for the victims’ families.