We join with the entire Jewish community and the nation in shock as we mourn the loss of life during this weekend’s attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Our prayers go out to the entire Tree of Life community, as well as their families and friends.
Many of our children have heard about the Pittsburgh tragedy. Here’s a selection of materials from the Union for Reform Judaism that may be helpful for each of us in processing this news and in speaking with our children.
Resources for Parents and Educators
Here are a number of resources to guide parents and educators in speaking to their children about tragedy, especially those based in man-made violence. The following may help both children and parents to process these unthinkable occurrences:
- “How We Can Help Our Littlest Learners in the Wake of Tragedy”: Tammy Kaiser, a Parkland-area neuroscientist, preschool director, mother and shooting survivor, shares tips for restoring children’s sense of safety and talks about her own experience comforting her son after the shooting.
- “Helping Children to Process Acts of Terrorism”: After acts of violence, children may have both practical and theological questions, such as: How can we be protected from terrorism? Where is God? Why would God allow such things to happen? Rabbi Edythe Mencher, also a clinical social worker, wrote this in-depth guide for talking to children of varying ages about acts of terrorism and violence.
- “Responding to Spiritual Questions and Emotional Needs after Tragedies”: What do we tell our kids when tragedies like these make them doubt God’s presence? This new piece from Rabbi Mencher addresses such questions as they impact both children and adults.
- “Parenting Thoughts: Helping Children Cope With Tragedy”: Margie Bogdanow, a parent and Jewish educator in the Boston area, wrote this in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2012. She offers four tips for parents to address tragedies with their children— and to take time to process it themselves, too.
- “Talking to Children About Death”: Rabbi Mencher also penned this Jewish perspective on 10 common questions parents ask when helping children to better deal with death, grief and mourning.
- JECC’s Responding to Crisis: This site, a project of the Jewish Education Center of Cleveland, is dedicated to helping Jewish educators work through times of crisis. The site includes: resources to help children respond to tragedy, created with the guidance of various professionals; several sections offering avenues for response (through the Jewish tradition, through the spoken word, through the arts, etc.); a collection of Jewish texts that may be appropriate in various crises; and a collection of resources that complement the curriculum guide.
Resources for Prayer
Here are a few prayers (including transliteration) and poems to help us find the right words to speak to God about our grief.
- Mourner’s Kaddish: This ancient prayer has been on the lips of Jewish mourners around the world for centuries.
- “A Kaddish after Gun Violence, for When Humanity Fails Itself”: Rabbi Paul Kipnes of Congregation Or Ami in Calabasas, California, wrote this powerful original prayer in the immediate wake of the shootings in Las Vegas.
- “A Liturgy after Terror Attacks”: This four-piece liturgy from Jerusalem-based writer Alden Solovy includes “After a Terror Attack,” “To Terror Survivors,” “To the Terrorists” and “Let Tranquility Reign.”
- “Havdalah with a Gun: A Poem After Violence”: Reform Jewish poet Stacey Zisook Robinson wrote this piece in late 2015—but it is, tragically, still quite relevant today.
- “Special Haftarah Reading after the School Shooting in Parkland, FL“: Rabbi Rick Jacobs of the Union for Reform Judaism recommends the following special Haftarah reading, with appreciation to Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman for reminding us of this important text.
Resources for Action
Please join us in taking action to prevent gun violence.
- Take part in the Reform community’s efforts: Visit rac.org/gvp for resources from the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, including action alerts, news updates and the latest information about gun violence prevention through a Reform Jewish perspective.
- Join the teen movement to prevent gun violence: NFTY: The Reform Jewish Youth Movement offers resources created by teens, for teens, on the topic of gun violence prevention. Visit nfty.org/gvp for individual action items for teens and adults, as well as ways your synagogue youth group can get involved in this vital work.
- Follow the work of our partners: To find additional ways to get involved and to learn more about gun violence prevention efforts nationwide, visit Everytown for Gun Safety, Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and Metro-IAF’s Do Not Stand Idly By campaign.
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