When an Oasis Is Attacked

Jewish communities throughout the world were shocked and alarmed to learn that a knife-wielding man walked into 770 Eastern Parkway — the headquarters of the worldwide Lubavitch movement and one of the best known shuls in the world — and, reportedly shouting “Kill the Jews!,” stabbed and seriously wounded a young scholar who was learning.

Hamodia’s office was flooded with inquiries by greatly concerned individuals from throughout the United States, across the ocean in Europe, Israel, and beyond. Coming only three weeks after terrorists killed four Jews and a Druze policeman in a shul in Har Nof, a still-traumatized and grieving global Jewish community feared that this was another terror attack, this time on American soil.

Though the investigation into the precise motives of the attacker continues, early indications are that this is the work of a man with a long history of criminal activities who is mentally ill. Yet the fact that this is unlikely to be classified as a terror attack — and so far it isn’t even being deemed a bias crime — is of concern to a shaken Jewish community.

We are cognizant of, even accustomed to, the dangers lurking on the streets. We have tragically learned that violent crimes can occur even in neighborhoods long viewed as safe. But our shuls, places where we gather to pray and to study, have always been considered an oasis of safety from violent attacks, a place where individuals felt secure.

Ultimately, our safety and our fates are solely in the Hands of our Creator. But this does not preclude mortals from taking the obligatory steps to try to enhance security and reduce the dangers we face. We acknowledge the quick response from local authorities and assurance that police presence will be beefed up in neighborhoods throughout New York. We call upon elected officials on various levels, as well as leaders of minority communities, to let their voices be heard at this time. Though condemnations by themselves do little to protect the innocent or to calm jittery nerves, they are the necessary first step in the multi-faceted process of an appropriate response.