Barry Shrage, Boston's CJP CEO, has responded for not only his community but for all of us to the terrorists' murderous assault on America in such a magnificent and meaningful way that I wanted to republish it here.
The last 48 hours have been a time of wildly fluctuating feelings and emotions. On Tuesday night, Boston was planning to celebrate Israel. Instead, it was mourning its dead and praying for the injured.
In addition to our statewide celebration of Patriots' Day, Monday was also Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day. It’s a time when Israel and all who love Israel mourn those who died in war and the tens of thousands who died or were injured in terrorist attacks. A time of contemplation and tears. By mid-day we were already beginning to think about Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, a time of great joy and rejoicing.
But later in the afternoon the unthinkable happened. Two bomb blasts killed three and wounded more than 150 who lined the streets of the Boston Marathon. Those bombs destroyed many lives and desecrated a day that has always provided light and joy, ora v’simcha, to the people of Boston.
This, it sometimes seems, is our fate, forever caught between celebration and mourning.
And so Israel’s Independence Day was not a time of celebration in Boston this year. Instead, it was a time to remember how deeply our communities and our people are tied together, Americans and Israelis, Boston’s Jewish community and our brothers and sisters in Haifa and in Israel. We are bound together in celebration but also in tragedy, in joy but also in mourning, in trauma but also in resilience.
Two weeks ago 10 Israeli officers from Haifa, Boston’s sister city, visited Boston as part of the annual Hatikvah Mission to bring Israel’s message to the people of Boston. Among them was a young pilot named Omri. Omri had visited Boston before as a young teen, as part of the Boston-Haifa Connection. At about that time, he lost his grandparents and his brother in a terrorist attack not that different from the one we experienced Monday. His mother was also very badly injured.
Tragedy marks our lives but resilience redeems us. Omri’s mother miraculously recovered from most of her wounds and Omri has achieved one of the most important positions in the IDF. When he heard about the Marathon bombing he sent a note to be sure all his friends in Boston were safe. He then sent the following message:
I was here just a few days ago representing the State of Israel ...Two days ago, we commemorated the memorial day for soldiers and terror attack victims. At the end of the day we should have celebrated our independence day, but it was interrupted by the horrific attack on the lives and freedom of our friends and family in Boston.
The attack was a most horrible surprise for me and a great shock.
In times like these, we measure ourselves by the way we get back on our feet as individuals and as a group united. No words can bring comfort or peace to those who had family and friends hurt but it is important for you to know that you're not alone.
We, your family in Israel, stand with you, as you stand with us, and strengthen you as you have strengthened us.
We are as one.
Resilience and faith in the future is Omri’s and Israel’s saving grace and it will save us here in Boston as well.
In his most recent book, a commentary on the biblical Book of Job, Rabbi Harold Kushner comments on faith in the presence of overwhelming and inexplicable tragedy. His words touched me deeply when I read the book and seem especially important and meaningful at this moment:
The events of my personal and professional life have moved me over the years to find God not in the perfection of the world, the intricacies of rain and sun, growth and healing, the change of seasons and the beauty of the leaves in autumn.
I find God in the miracle of human resilience in the face of the world's imperfections, even the world's cruelty. How are people able to survive tragedy (and that is what you do with tragedy: you don't understand or explain it, you survive it)? What gave survivors of the Holocaust the courage to remarry and create new families after what the Nazis and their collaborators did to their first families? What enabled our fourteen-year-old son, so stricken with congestive heart failure that he had to sleep standing up, to look forward to every day he had to share with his friends, his family, and his dog? What motivates doctors to search for cures, and neighbors to hug us and dry our tears when we are stricken, if it is not God at work within them and within us?
Or we might ask, what motivated Omri and his family to rise from their mourning and Omri to give the highest level of service to his country? What motivated the brave first responders and bystanders in Boston to risk their lives in the face of potential danger?
I’m so proud to be part of this great Jewish community and in spite of it all to stand together with confidence and hope and love. We are working to determine the best ways to support the victims and those touched by this tragedy.
With deep condolences and love for the bereaved and prayers for a refuah shelemah for those who were so badly injured, with support from people of all faiths throughout Greater Boston, from our friends in Israel, and support from Jewish communities around the United States, we will stand together in mutual respect and love to face the future with optimism.
Thank you Barry, thank you Omri.