Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Commentary: Good has come from attack on Philly synagogue

By Robyn Frisch To you who have been throwing rocks at my synagogue, Temple Menorah Keneseth Chai in the Northeast.

By Robyn Frisch

To you who have been throwing rocks at my synagogue, Temple Menorah Keneseth Chai in the Northeast.

You've come in the dark of the early evening in the winter and thrown rocks at the colored windows of my synagogue's sanctuary. I don't know if you're one person or more. I don't know if you're some neighborhood thug who's out to show his friends that you're cool, or if you're a bigot who doesn't want Jews - or maybe people of any faith - worshiping in your neighborhood.

I don't know if you're one person or two, or maybe a small group - you did manage to break eight strong, high windows the second time before fleeing. I don't know if you've also done things to other synagogues, or other places of worship, businesses, or homes. I don't know if you were inspired by reports of swastikas spray painted on synagogues, Jewish institutions, and other buildings or other anti-semitic or hateful acts that have been happening throughout our country in recent weeks.

There are a lot of things I don't know. But here's what I do know:

I know that on Dec. 2, a minute before our Sabbath evening service was about to begin, a rock came flying through one of our sanctuary windows - shattering the glass as well as our sense of security. We were shaken up but nobody left. We had our service and we celebrated the Sabbath.

I know that a few days later a man I had never heard of before, whose parents used to belong to our synagogue, learned about what had happened and offered to pay for the cost of replacing the window.

I know that dozens of people donated to the GoFundMe account I created online and sent checks to the synagogue so that we could raise enough money to put security cameras outside.

I know that we started to feel safe again, and before the security cameras were installed, I walked into the sanctuary on the evening of Jan. 6 and saw the president of our congregation standing stone-faced by a window. I looked down and saw the shattered glass by his feet. Another window had been broken. As we looked up, we realized that it wasn't just one window that had been broken, or two, or three. This time you, or someone just like you, threw rocks at the windows of our sanctuary under the cover of darkness before we came to celebrate our Sabbath and eight windows were broken.

I know that the following week the media began to cover the story of our little synagogue in the Northeast. People from the neighborhood, from all over the area, and from throughout the country heard about what happened. They reached out with words of support and offers of help.

I know that the local Glaziers Union learned of what happened and installed for free eight new windows that a local businessman generously donated.

I know that a man from Florida with no connection to our synagogue read about what had happened and anonymously put up $10,000 for your capture and conviction.

I know that more people donated to our fund and six security cameras have been installed outside of our synagogue. We're now raising money for floodlights.

I know that the Thursday night after those eight windows were broken I, along with 10 members of my congregation, attended a Tacony Town Watch meeting where I met some amazing men and women volunteers who help the police by serving as "eyes and ears" of the neighborhood. One of the women is Jewish, and because of what you did, she came to our Sabbath service the following night while her boyfriend, the president of the Town Watch, stood watch outside. They are now part of our synagogue family.

I know that some of my congregants are nervous when they come to synagogue now, but they haven't stopped coming. I know that the congregation isn't leaving the neighborhood - we're going to continue to pray where members of our synagogue have prayed for the past 92 years. We won't be kept away because of what you've done. We're not going to take down the sign outside of our synagogue announcing the time of our services. We have a right to be here and to let people know we're here.

My congregation isn't going to move out; we're going to move on. We're here to stay, and because of your stone-throwing, we're more connected - to each other and to others in our neighborhood and beyond - and we're stronger than ever.

Your acts of evil have resulted in more acts of kindness than I can count. And I know that even if you throw more rocks - whether or not you get caught - the overwhelming generosity and support we've received from so many people will continue to inspire me and others to work toward creating a tolerant and safe society where people of all faiths can live and worship in security and peace.

Rabbi Robyn Frisch is the spiritual leader of Temple Menorah Keneseth Chai and director of InterfaithFamily/Philadelphia.