I have very fond memories of going to midnight movies in my teens and 20s—laughing uncontrollably at Bringing Up Baby, and doing the Time Warp during The Rocky Horror Picture Show in Berkeley (once). So I feel the horror of what happened at the movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado to my toes.
Buses from the airport in a foreign land: how many of us have been lucky enough to have that all figured out when we travel, and hopefully, the bus is air-conditioned and comfortable. The images of the bus in Burgas, Bulgaria burning from a bomber changed the visions of a happy vacation.
To die because you were in the wrong place at the wrong time feels just plain wrong. If ever there were a moment to ask, “Why me?” or “Why my child?” or “Why my loved one?” this would be it.
But the answer to that is really complicated, and indeed, at moments like this, blaming some version of God seems particularly fruitless and can’t provide comfort to the mourners or those of us who might be living in fear (although the crowds at the Dark Knight Rises at the Riverside in Reno yesterday were still pretty large). And I think we have to reject any god that tells someone like George Zimmerman to kill an unarmed teenager (another of the reasons this week was so painful).
At Tea and Torah this week, we read the Kamza—Bar Kamza story that the rabbis put forth to explain why the Second Temple was destroyed. An apocryphal story of a party gone terribly wrong, of humiliation and revenge and downright dangerously feckless leadership, it shows that Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) was right: there really is nothing new under the sun. How much of what happened this week falls under the title of sinat chinam—senseless hatred?
So what do we do? We remember that we are all connected to each other, all responsible for each other. All Jews are responsible for each other, so we bear responsibility for supporting the victims of terror in Bulgaria. I believe that we Americans are also responsible for each other (which makes today’s divisions so painful), and we need to support the people of Aurora, Colorado.
We can make donations to the Jewish Agency’s Victims of Terrorism Fund through the San Diego Federation: http://bit.ly/sdbulgaria or Jewish Federation of San Diego County, 4950 Murphy Canyon Road, San Diego, CA, 92123.
We can help people in Aurora by helping these organizations (thanks to the Unitarian Fellowship of South Florida for this list):
- Aurora Mental Health Center. They are the ones that are providing the crisis counseling to the survivors and family of those fallen.
- Thrive with Confidence Foundation. They are taking donations to assist the families that are left behind as well as those displaced by their homes due to the evacuations in place.
- Bonfils Blood Center. They are currently accepting blood & cash donations.
- Children’s Colorado Hospital. There were numerous children that were injured, not to mention the psychological trauma that they endured.
- American Red Cross. They have set up shelters for those that were evacuated due to the bomb scares.
- The Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance. They are assisting the police in keeping track of all the victims and helping to disseminate information as it comes out. As well as assisting families and friends to track down missing victims.
- Metro Crisis Services. They are providing crisis counseling to the survivors and family of those fallen.
- The Denver Center for Crime Victims. They are providing crisis counseling to the survivors and family of those fallen
What we CAN do on a personal level is pay attention to the level of violence in our personal lives, in the lives of the people around us and take steps to decrease it. We can also keep ourselves conscious to the mental health of those around us, especially our teens and people in their 20s, when first mental health breaks often occur.
We are starting the month of Av, the first nine days of which, leading up to Tisha B’Av, are traditionally considered days of mourning and reflection, for those killed and exiled during the destruction of the first and second temples in 586 BCE and 70 CE. It is a time to face our pain, face our sorrow and hold in our hearts people whose sorrow is happening at this very moment.
We remember victims of the Bulgarian bus bombing: Amir Menashe, Itzik Kolengi, Maor Harush, Elior Priess, and Kochava Shriki and their bus driver, Mustafa Kyosov. And the known victims in Aurora: Alex Sullivan, John Larimer, Jessica Ghawi, Micayla Medek, Jon Blunk, Alex Teves, Alexander “AJ” Boik, Gordon Cowden, Rebecca Wingo, Matt McQuinn, Veronica Moser-Sullivan and Jess Childress, plus all the wounded, some still in critical condition, all facing some form of post traumatic stress disorder.
We can seek peace in our lives, in the lives of those around us, and in our community. One action, one choice at a time.
Oseh shalom bimromav, may the One who makes peace in the High Places, help us to make peace here on earth.
Very nice, Rabbi. It is a VERY sad time right now. Thank you for listing the names of the victims, as it gives them a voice of individuality vs a statistical number. “keeping conscious to the health issues of those around us” is good advice.
We tend to think others can take care of themselves, or if they’d only dig a little deeper. Reality is sometimes so very far from that assumption. I’m starting to be more cognoscent of that.
Thank you, Rabbi, for a very timely piece.
Ed Gurowitz says
I believe God has a long-range, high-level plan or pattern for the world/universe. I have to believe that at the human scale this pattern looks very different than it does at a universal scale.
That said, how it looks from here sucks at the moment.
Marian Blanton says
Having watched memorial service held in Aurora, Colorado, on CNN, yesterday, I’m moved to say that every civic and religious leader came to the same conclusions about what we need to do to begin the healing process–to love each other and to help one another as is God’s design for humankind from the beginning. Thanks for sharing how your community is trying to deal with making sense of the senseless. Next we have to inspire our spineless Congress to revisit gun control, then to suggest ways civilians become more aware of mental health problems, taking personal responsibility to report to appropriate authorities in each community.
Thanks, Marian. Another interesting read in light of this is the cover story in yesterday’s New York Times Magazine, the story about the 14 year old who killed his parents and after years in prison has done teshuvah. The most stunning part of the article was the person’s description of how he almost told his teacher how full of rage he was and his plans, but didn’t. And the teacher didn’t even remember the conversation that his student thought might have led to a different outcome. However, the teacher has become much more aware of the behavior of his students since that time… It seems our society is beset with people who suffer silently until it becomes very loud.