Shock... horror... disbelief... anger... prayer... profound sadness... fear... overwhelming sense of loss... more anger and outrage... more prayer and heartfelt tears to our loving Father in heaven. What will be? When will it end? Will we ever achieve the peace we so desperately seek? Will Hashem finally end the pain and suffering His children endure both here and in Israel.
May He whose place is that of solace for the world comfort all those whose lives have been shattered here, in Israel and throughout the world, and may we continue to draw strength from one another as a community and as a family.
'Am Yisroel chai od avinu chai'
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
West Seattle Torah Learning Center
'Sinah m'kalkelet hashurah ' Hate destroys the order of life' (from the Talmud).
An act of hate descended on our community and left good and innocent people dead and wounded.
Pam Waechter, the extraordinary woman who we lost to this tragedy, participated with me in a special seminar this past year at the Federation on Religion, Ethics, and Violence.
This seminar explored the connection on how easily religion is used to justify and perpetrate violence and hatred. The seminar focused on the importance of choosing and advocating a reading of religious tradition that demanded of God and human beings a life-affirming standard of justice and mercy. We are doubly grieved for Pam, who fully embraced this life-loving understanding of religion and yet was victim to its hateful distortion.
Pam was a Jew by Choice who was deeply committed to sharing her love of Judaism with anyone who was interested. I greatly admired her commitment to keruv ' outreach ' the loving and joyful presentation of Judaism. Her Judaism was beautiful, deep, and attractive and gave enormous meaning to those who were touched by her passion. She was the embodiment of this life-loving Judaism. The way she lived her life transcends her death. Her memory gives us a derech ' a way to live our Jewish lives. We give praise to Pam, a woman of valor in the truest sense.
Rabbi Dov Gartenberg
Panim Hadashot'New Faces of Judaism
Mother Rachel weeps for her children going into exile:
Thus says the Lord; A voice was heard on high, wailing, bitter weeping; Rachel weeps for her children she refuses to be consoled. (Jeremiah 21:14).
The Midrash relates that as the Jewish people are exiled, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses intercede with God for them, but their pleas are denied. Rachel reminds God of how on her wedding night, Laban substituted her sister, Leah, as bride. Rachel will not allow her sister to be embarrassed. If she accepts this pain for the sake of her sister, could God not overlook her children's failings and be merciful? She truly cared for others. God responds:
Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears; for your work shall be rewarded.
Mother Rachel certainly weeps now for the pain of her children.
Pam Waechter exemplified love for all Jews. She devoted her life to reaching out to others. Our community has come together in an amazing show of support and unity following this tragedy. May Pam's family be comforted, those wounded be healed and our community find strength in unity. May God declare to Pam and our community, 'your work will be rewarded.'
Rabbi Moshe Kletenik
Congregation Bikur Cholim Machzikay Hadath
The ancient Psalmist must have been confronting the same kind of pain, loss, and fear we feel when he sang, 'I lift up my eyes to the mountains. From where does my help come? My help comes from the One Eternal, Creator of all that is....' (Psalm 121:1,2)
Anger and violence are consequences of forgetting the true nature of our being. When we collapse into our separate selves, each striving to protect what is ours from others, each suspicious and watchful and fearful, we are vulnerable to prejudice, to programmed hatred, to demonizing and dehumanizing the other.
While we strive for solutions to human hate and violence on the level they express themselves, we somehow intuit that true healing requires a greater vision. We 'look to the mountains,' seeking a more inclusive awareness.
What we need now is a greater vision. We need to remember who we are: unique expressions of One Life, One Awareness, One Being. Each being is sacred. Each being is held in the embrace of the Eternal Presence, from which none can ever be lost.
'The Eternal One guards you as you come and go, now and forever.' (Psalm 121:8)
Rabbi Ted Falcon
Bet Alef Meditative Synagogue
If I may, allow me to offer a consoling thought at this difficult time.
It is virtually impossible for human beings, with their limited capacity of intellect and emotion, to be able to deal with even the norms of day-to-day life, let alone something as tragic and unacceptable as the death of a loved one. For this God gave us His holy Torah containing His divine wisdom. Only God, the creator of life and death, can give us guidance through these challenges.
The Torah clearly states that only the physical body leaves us. The neshama, the soul, lives on forever and ever. Be assured that the soul of Pam will continue to live on, as she looks down upon her beloved friends and family. She will rejoice in your happiness and be a part of your daily lives and challenges. I feel this is something Pam wants me to tell you. She wants you to know this.
We as Jews have never been limited to the realm of the physical. Our strength and ability to retain ourselves as a people throughout the millennia of persecution has been, and always will be, the dominant strength of our spirit. This is true with us as a people. It is also true with each and every one of us as an individual.
I hope these teachings of our holy Torah offer some consolation in this great loss. May Hashem bless you with His warmth and compassion so that you no longer know of any sorrow, and may He give you the strength to persevere and overcome this terrible loss and enable you to carry on in your life. 'May her soul be bound in the bond of eternal life.'
Rabbi Shalom Farkash
Chabad of the Central Cascades
Although this tragic crime was politically motivated, our most effective response should rise above to the spiritual. Of course there are local calls to avenge, add security, reach out, support or oppose Israeli policy, just as Israel faces them. There won't be a universal halachic response to this, nor will the more liberal branches of Judaism likely find unanimity.
My radical suggestion is that we look inside our selves, our community and our people for our greatest strength. If we can somehow eliminate the internal hatred, the 'sinat chinam' which plagued us at the destruction of the Temple and which continues today, if we can transform it to 'ahavat chinam' ' motiveless love and respect ' we create an irresistible force.
As in any family there is room for disagreement. Two Jews = three opinions = heat = energy. If only we can keep it constructive ' building unifying energy instead of explosions that blow us apart as a people, this concentrated love among us will radiate outward to the rest of the world.
Perhaps this is really the meaning of 'Ki mitzion tetzeh Torah ' The Torah will broadcast from Zion,' that Torah whose 'Kol netivotehah shalom ' All of whose paths lead to peace and fullness.' 'U'fros aleynu sukkot shlomecha ' spread over us, all beings, your protection of peace.'
Rabbi Harry Zeitlin
Congregation Beth Ha'Ari
Could it be, oh God,
that you were busy Friday afternoon
at 4 p.m.,
waiting for the challah to rise,
or seasoning your soup,
or ironing your Shabbos clothes?
Could it be, Makor Chayim,
Divine Source of life,
That we are to make sense of
the sorrow and
the blood and
the screams and
of our loved one's suffering?
Could it be, TzurYisrael,
Rock of Israel,
That You are testing our resolve
and our faith like
You did Abraham and Moses and
Deborah and Solomon?
It could be, Oh God,
we might discover in flowered memorials
and broken hearts and
the resolve to love our neighbors and
memorialize the righteous and
lift up the fallen and
touch the souls who sleep in the dust.
It could be, HaKadosh Baruchu,
Holy One of Blessing,
that we never understand
the mystery of our grief
nor divine the answer why and
perhaps the spiritual quest is
to love the questions themselves.
It could be, Ohev Yisrael,
Source of Great love,
out of the depths of our violation and our anger,
we pour our tears into the cup of life
and we remember Your first command:
love one another.
It could be, Oh God,
on this Shabbos,
You will sit at our table and
You will kiss our wounds
and bless our wine, and
break our bread, and
in the glow of the candles first light,
we will once again
feel your presence.
Rabbi Michael Adam Latz
Judaism is a religion not of 'why' but of 'how.' There are no satisfactory answers for why last week's horror at the Seattle Jewish Federation took place. And our tradition does not focus on answering these 'why' questions. Rather our focus is on 'how.' How, after this tragedy, to once again laugh, have faith, find meaning, create sacred moments and be community.
Most of our prayers (just look at kaddish or the Amidah) end with a prayer for Shalom. Why do we need to keep repeating this same request for peace? Because it is elusive and fragile, and yet of absolute importance. As Jews, we are committed to Shalom: shalom nafshi ' internal peace, shalom bayit ' peace in our homes, shalom bimromav ' peace in the heavens and shalom aleinu ' peace upon us. We commit ourselves to the hope expressed in the morning silent prayer, calling for Sim Shalom tova u'vrecha ba'olam chen vachesed v'rahamim ' Grant peace, well-being and blessing with grace and loving kindness and mercy. And we call to the Eternal One Ufros aleinu sukkat shlomecha ' spread over us the sheltering presence of Your peace.
Rabbi Jill Borodin
Congregation Beth Shalom
''Va'Yidom Aharon ' 'And Aharon fell silent.' (Leviticus 10:3), after the sudden and tragic death of his two sons, Aharon wept, but immediately fell silent upon receiving consolation from Moses that they had died sanctifying God's name.
Aharon kept silent, he did not ask 'Why?' Rather, immediately, after the death of his two sons, (Leviticus 16:1) he was commanded regarding the Yom Kippur service and resolutely and without delay, he took action.
Regardless of the insanity of the perpetrator, Pam and those injured at the Federation, were targeted because of their dedication, commitment and love for the Jewish people.
We must cry, we must be outraged. But ultimately we must be silent and take action.
As Jews, we understand there is an ultimate purpose for everything, but there is a limitation to our understanding. Only the Almighty knows 'Why?'
Pam and those injured, worked tirelessly for the Jewish community. They were about action. And now, more than ever, we must take action. The Federation and the Jewish community have great needs, and now we have fewer servants.
Let this be a call to get more involved in our Jewish community, dedicate more financially, and learn more about being a Jew. Commit today to the Jewish community.
Rabbi Richard Toban
The Seattle Kollel
As we move forward from this tragedy, I would like to recognize the staff members of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle who, while mourning the death of a colleague and dealing with the deep emotions of this awful event, have been visiting the injured in the hospital and seeing to the needs of the family members of the injured, speaking to the press, supporting one another emotionally, and beginning to plan for the continued operation of the Federation. Their dedication and fortitude, along with that of the lay leadership, have truly been an inspiration to the community. May God help us bring comfort to the family of Pamela Waechter, healing to those who have been physically and emotionally affected by this tragedy, and strength and support to the staff and lay leaders of the Federation.
Rabbi Bruce Kadden
Temple Beth El
Last Friday afternoon our community was targeted by a terrorist seeking to harm Jews. Pamela Waechter was murdered in cold blood, and five others were wounded. I would like to offer a word of condolence to the family of Pam Waechter and to all those who were privileged to know her, and to benefit from her compassion and dedication. In the traditional expression of consolation, we pray that 'The Omnipresent should comfort you among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.'
In a letter to former prime minister Ariel Sharon upon the loss of his son, the Rebbe, of blessed memory, explained the solace inherent in mentioning the destruction of Jerusalem. Our enemies, no matter how vicious, are never able to destroy our spiritual essence. The Babylonians and Romans who sacked the Beit Hamikdash, the Holy Temple, only affected its wood and stone. They had absolutely no power over the inner Beit Hamikdash in the heart of every Jew, the spiritual accomplishment of mitzvot and good deeds. So too, death can only affect the body, but the soul, and the mitzvot one does are eternal. Indeed, the merit of Pamela Waechter's work on behalf of the community will remain forever.
May the Almighty, healer of all flesh, send a speedy recovery to all those wounded in this horrific attack, and may we all see the fulfillment of the verse in Isaiah 8:10, 'Our enemies will plot and plan, but it will come to naught, for G0d is with us'.
Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky
Northwest Friends of Chabad
'Alas, how lonely is the City.' As we recite that verse from Lamentations this week in memory of the Destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem long ago, we feel a similar sense of devastation over the murder of our dear Pam Waechter and the senseless shootings of the five of her fellow colleagues ' Layla Bush, Carol Goldman, Dayna Klein, Christina Rexroad, Cheryl Stumbo ' who we pray are in the midst of recovery.
We cannot yet fully appreciate the trauma of this incident. The healing of our community will require years and decades, rather than weeks and months.
But it is the death of Pam that wrenches our very souls. What a wonderful person and dedicated Jew. She was beloved and precious in her lifetime, and death will not part her from us nor us from her.
Rabbi James Mirel
Temple B'nai Torah, excerpted from his eulogy for Pam Waechter