‘It was hard to stay away’: Why this Montreal Rabbi Adam Scheier (YCT ’04) went to Israel amid the war

October 17, 2023

by Joe Lofaro for CTV News

It has been 11 days since the Hamas attack on Israel killed more than 1,200 people.

Since then, thousands more people have been killed or injured on both sides and hundreds of Canadians have fled the region.

But Rabbi Adam Scheier (YCT ’04), the rabbi for Montreal’s Congregation Shaar Hashomayim — one of the oldest traditional synagogues in North America — has decided to leave Canada and is now in Israel. He arrived there Monday night.

Below is a Q&A with Rabbi Adam Scheier and CTV News Montreal’s Mutsumi Takahashi. The interview below has been edited for length and clarity. Watch the video above for the full interview.

CTV: Why did you decide to go to Israel?

SCHEIER: There are a lot of reasons as to why I’m here. And part of it is that it was hard to stay away. This is our family. This was a tragic event that happened to our family. This horrific terror attack was the worst attack against the Jewish state and the worst attack in terms of a single day of death and murder since the end of the Second World War for our people.

Part of it is sitting in Montreal and feeling my heart so connected here. I came because it was tough for me to stay away. I came because my daughter is here, my brother is here and I needed to connect with them. And I came to bear witness, because that’s part of the cycle of violence and negativity and also that exists in the world. We need to see these things for what they are: this horrific act of terror, cowardice, a brutal act that took place right outside of Gaza in Israel. And I needed to see for myself to be able to share just how horrific this is and to try to find a way to respond with positivity.

CTV: Why do you think it’s important for all of us to bear witness?

SCHEIER: I think truth is challenging, at times. We need to balance our own mental health and awareness with what’s happening in the world. And doom scrolling is not a healthy activity. But at the same time I can’t turn away because we have an obligation as members of the human race who love peace and want only goodness for people and we have to fight evil where it is.

CTV: You’ve been in Israel for about 24 hours. You were just recently at a military base there. What are you seeing? What are you hearing from the people there?

SCHEIER: It’s been an exhausting day. I arrived less than 24 hours [ago] but the emotional toll that this has taken on people of Israel and the entire Jewish people around the world is extraordinary. It’s beyond imagination. Stepping out off the airplane in Israel, and that sense of relief that I arrived safely, and then to meet people in the airport who just experienced an air raid siren just a few hours earlier, and had to run because the terrorists are sending missiles towards civilian centres and towards airports — that’s horrifying.

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Photo-realistic image of the Israeli flag with a sunset in the background. An Israeli flag covers the majority of the image, it is a white horizontal rectangle with a blue horizontal stripe on the top and bottom and a blue Magen David in the middle. The flag is tinted yellowish gold by the large blazing yellow and white sun glowing on the right side. The sky behind the flag is a hazy light grey and a grey metal flagpole can be seen on the far left.
תפילה לנעדרים ולנעדרות, לחטופים ולחטופות
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