There are certain questions that have become the most frequently asked ones of me no matter where I go. In an effort to lend clarity, I will attempt to answer them now.
#1. How are you and your congregation doing? While I am not a mental health specialist, I have learned that trauma manifests itself in many ways. Those asking this question may not realize that the massacre in Tree of Life occurred just over one hundred days ago. There are many, including me, who are still mourning our losses. Some still cannot believe, some remain in shock, some are trying to cope, some are afraid, some are processing, some are galvanized to action, and so forth. If there could be one hundred different slots, there would be individuals to populate each of those slots. Thus, there is not one pat answer nor one set of adjectives, and the responses are not mutually exclusive. We are grieving.
#2. When will the synagogue reopen? Once again, please be mindful that we have merely passed one hundred days. The damage is not only physical, but spiritual. Before any structural work can begin, we must identify how our vision and mission have changed, and how they will be represented in and around our building. There will be many different types of focus groups to provide opportunities to ask questions and collaborate to identify what the building should look like. While I am also not an architect nor contractor, I do know that with our central core being built in the late ’50’s, it must be brought up to code to be a safe and efficient space. Our right and left flanks must also be brought up to code. Fifty-year-old electrical, HVAC, lighting, sound and plumbing systems demand improvement to adequately serve the needs of all who will utilize our building. That will take time and vast resources. Rest assured that we will return, that the H word will not chase us out of our home.
#3. What about the High Holy Days? Great question. While the main sanctuary was not damaged, the HVAC system needs to be replaced, as it can no longer maintain a comfortable temperature. Lighting needs to be improved as does the sound system, and roof repairs are necessary. There are inadequate restrooms in that part of the building. We are identifying suitable facilities for the High Holy Days that will meet our needs in terms of seating capacity, parking, security, short travel, sound system, lighting, simple rest room access, spaces for our babysitting and youth services, just to name a few. We are hopeful to make as best a decision as possible as quickly as possible.
We are tackling many challenges simultaneously, and no doubt have made and will continue to make mistakes along the way, regardless of our best intentions and seeking the best advice available. We continue to learn much from other groups whom have also suffered from horror in their communities. Alas, this is a special group that no one wants to belong to yet we recognize the comfort that comes from our sharing and the thoughtful suggestions borne of experience. As we write the book on how a synagogue responds to this horror we know that patience only lasts for a set period of time, but ask for your forbearance as we do the best we can. May the One who offers peace to the entire world, bestow it upon all of us. Amen.