Fellow Scouters: We all face the dilemma of how to deal with the shootings at the Tree of Life Synagogue when we next meet with our Scouts. The event is too important to go unmentioned, and at the same time too sensitive be addressed without a great deal of thought. Each week, I try to provide a d’var Torah that is ready to be used as an enrichment item for parents to share with their children at their dinner tables, or to print as you rush out the door on Friday for the weekend campout. This special Derech Tsofeh is not ready to use, and is only meant to give you a theme around which to build your own discussion or Scoutmaster’s Minute, hopefully after speaking with those who can counsel you on how best to talk to the children in your unit about such tragedies: rabbis, teachers, psychologists and parents.
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” Fred Rogers
As you have certainly heard by now, yesterday, on Shabbat, a man who said he hates Jews entered the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with several firearms. He killed 11 people and injured six more, including police who had entered the synagogue to stop him.
Prejudice against Jews – known as anti-Semitism – comes from listening to rumors and lies about Jewish people. Often, these terrible things are said and written by people who do not know many – or any – Jews.
Just as these hateful things are spread by language, we can combat them by language, using the principles we use every day in Scouting.
BE PREPARED. You probably have questions about what happened, and why. You may want to know about anti-Semitism, and staying safe. Talk to your parents, rabbis and teachers about your feelings and ask your questions.
DO YOUR DUTY TO GOD AND YOUR COUNTRY. We should not tolerate hate and prejudice in Judaism or America. They just make people angry and solve nothing. To combat hate and prejudice, we need to learn about what causes it and how to stop it. Your school, synagogue, temple or community may have programs that will teach you what to do.
DO A GOOD TURN. Those who have been hurt and those who have lost a loved one or friend need our help and prayers. There may be local events where your Scout unit can help. You can ask God to help these people by saying a prayer while thinking about them – I like Psalm 23. People all over America are very sad and concerned for the Jewish community and the nation – your siddur or prayer book will have a Prayer for the Country you can recite.
Have a week of peace,