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Emanuel responds to Charleston Church shooting

Dear Fellow Emanuelites,

The recent event in Charleston has been shocking and deeply upsetting. I was asked by one of our members whether our congregation has responded, as well as how Emanuel parents can help their children understand the connection between Judaism and social justice. In addition to participating in a multi-denominational service at Edgewater Presbyterian Church, we sent a letter of condolence from our congregation to the congregation of Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston. Last night at our Board of Trustees meeting we stood in memory of the nine individuals who lost their lives and I encourage everyone to keep the families of those people in your prayers. The text of the letter we sent was as follows:

"As leaders of a reform Jewish synagogue in Chicago, Emanuel Congregation, we want to extend to you on behalf of our congregation our deepest condolences on the horrifying murder and loss of your Pastor and parishioners. Words fail in trying to express how heinous a crime this is, to murder people in a house of God, where, of all places, people should feel safe, and for reasons of hate. As Jews, we know through centuries about both being hated and being murdered. Our Torah teaches us that we must respect human life above all else and must work for peace and justice wherever they are absent, in short, to repair the world.

We wish there were more we could do to repair your broken hearts. What was done in your church is an atrocity that people of all faiths can only abhor. Your words of forgiveness as you appeared in court, in contrast, were an expression of profound faith that left us deeply moved and inspired.

As you try to make sense of this incomprehensible act, and as you try to heal, please know that we are keeping you in our thoughts, in our hearts, and in our prayers."

The message was signed by me as President and by Rabbi Zedek and Rabbi Schaalman as our Senior and Emeritus rabbis. The URJ has resources for talking with children of different ages about community tragedies. This information can be found at

Certainly this terrible tragedy in Charleston reminds us that the task of tikkun olamremains as urgent as ever. Our social action/social justice programs can always use more participants and volunteers. If you have ideas or want to get more involved, I hope you will let me know.

Jill Gardner

President Emanuelk Congregation

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