In the weeks since the October 7 attack in Israel, the world feels like a more precarious place, and Jewish families throughout the world are feeling especially vulnerable. As they mourn and process unfathomable loss, Rye’s Jewish community is no different.
Rabbi Daniel Gropper, who leads Rye’s Community Synagogue, described his congregation’s unease: “Parents are concerned for themselves and their children. They are unsure if, and how, they can protect their families,” he said.
“Escalating threats facing Jewish people worldwide have chipped away at a deep sense of security,” he explained. “The Rye community should be aware that the deep psychic safety a lot of Jewish people have felt living the U.S. has been diminished.”
Gropper has been impressed by, and grateful for, the support he has received from Rye’s other religious leaders, noting Rev. Dan Love of Rye Presbyterian Church and Rev. Kate Malin of Christ’s Church for their consistent calls and presence.
“Daniel and I, along with our communities, have forged a longstanding and lovely friendship. And when your friends are hurting, you show up,” said Love, who has led Rye’s Presbyterian church for more than 25 years.
Church representatives, local elected officials, and more than 450 residents attended a service at the synagogue on October 13.
Rye’s Public Safety Commissioner, Michael Kopy, called immediately to ask what his department could do to help. As the synagogue has increased its security, the Rye Police Department has added patrols.
Gropper is heartened the Israeli flag has flown at Rye Town Park and hangs on the altar at Resurrection Church, where the choir sang the Israeli National Anthem at all masses the weekend following the attack. He also noted that a vigil for peace, healing, and meditation was held at Wainwright House.
While bolstered and deeply grateful for the outpouring of support, Gropper acknowledged that he and many in the Jewish community understood that the passage of time compounded by an ongoing war would cause “the winds to change” and support to dissipate, leaving many to feel alone.
Gropper worries that the “natural human tendency to forget and move on” will translate to indifference, referencing Elie Weisel, who said: “The opposite of love is not hate but indifference.” He encourages the Rye community to “continue reaching out to your friend, your neighbor, ask how they are doing, keep checking in, and let them know that you are there for them.”
Rye mom Kelly Goldstein has organized a fundraiser, selling blue ribbons to bolster families and children affected by the war. The monies raised will be donated to Community Synagogue and the United Jewish Appeal.
“I’ve been very overwhelmed with the support from the entire community,” she said. “It’s really made my heart feel very full.”
In the first week, Goldstein has received orders for more than 400 ribbons and has raised $4,300. She reported that women in Rye Neck and Rye Brook are also offering blue ribbons.
While Gropper sees the blue ribbons as “a very powerful, important, and significant message of support,” he understands and respects every, and any, way residents choose to support the Jewish community. “Please just know that we are hurting,” he said, with the understanding that his community is not alone in its suffering.
The Rabbi shares the concern and immense pain he feels for the suffering of innocent Palestinians. “We can hold two truths at the same time,” he said. “We can feel pain for the Jews and at the same time compassion for innocent Palestinians killed, suffering and mourning those they love too.”
Ultimately, Rabbi Gropper advises the entire community to live and act with kindness and compassion – in real time. “Stay off social media; it is not a great place to process psychic pain. Call a friend, take a walk with your neighbor, go to your house of worship, visit other congregations. Remember, and reach out.”