I am writing to you in the middle of a trip to Harvard, Brandeis, MIT, GW and Penn Hillels to support our rabbis and Jewish students on college campuses in the face of unprecedented acts of anti-Semitism we have seen and experienced the last few weeks.
We have just marked 30 days from the horrific events of October 7, and our rabbis – serving across the US and in Israel — have been stepping up and serving Am Yisrael like never before.
As I reflect on the work that they have been doing, I realize that our rabbis were made for moments like these. Their pastoral and leadership skills, their Torah, their empathy and passion, and the wisdom they have gained with experience, have fully prepared them for this time of crisis.
Every day, they are bringing to their communities inspirational leadership, spiritual support, and a sense of purpose and direction.
Here are just a few snapshots of what I’ve seen and heard:
- On campus, Rabbi Dan Epstein (’16), Senior Jewish Educator at GW Hillel, organized a letter writing campaign through the YCT network of rabbis and communities to give chizzuk to the embattled Jewish students on campus.
- In synagogues, our rabbis have been providing pastoral support to individuals and speaking from the pulpit with strength and moral clarity. Rabbi Adam Scheier (’04), of Shaar HaShomayim in Montreal has been active non-stop, flying to Israel on a mission immediately after Oct. 7, then meeting the following week with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urging him to show more forceful support for Israel, and then flying back to Israel the week after that.
- In print and social media, our rabbis have been vigorous defenders of Israel. In a recent op-ed in Newsweek, Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz (’10) wrote to set the record straight about the facts of Israel and Gaza. He is a model of strength and courage.
- In Israel, Rabbi Aryeh Leifert (’06), immediately began driving all over the country, taking soldiers to their bases and bringing supplies where they were needed; Rabbi Daniel Silverstein (’15) visited victims of the terror attacks, beatboxing by their hospital bedsides bringing much needed cheer; and Rabbi Mike Schultz (’08) is currently spearheading an initiative, together with Rikmah and Beit Hillel rabbis and rabbaniyot, to bring pastoral and rabbinic support to displaced communities.
- In the yeshiva, our students are engaged at all levels. We will be going en masse to the DC march next Tuesday, and a contingent of students, led by Rabbi Yonah Berman will be flying to Israel next week to provide rabbinic support with Rabbi Avi Weiss.
Each night, I go to bed worried about what the next day will bring, and at the same time, I am so proud and inspired by our alumni and the thousands of other rabbis out there in the world who are doing such important work during these days. It is because of them that I am optimistic about our future.
Rabbis are needed now more than ever. This is the message that we have been communicating to our larger community. And, in response to one such message, our new student Marko Gasparovic, received a text from a friend in France who wrote:
“Never before in my lifetime have we needed spiritual advisors and those who can give support and hope than we do now. If I would be choosing a career today, I would be a social worker, a psychologist or a rabbi! Healing all of the damaged souls that are out there now, especially children, is much more important than doing any other job. The world needs you, Marko, and I truly believe that you are answering a calling that was awakened inside you just at the right moment.”
Thank you for all you have done to support us and our rabbis. You should take pride in, and draw strength from, their work.
Hope to see you in Washington D.C. on November 14!
Stay strong! Am Yisrael Chai!
Rabbi Dov Linzer