Sunday, March 24, 2019

Sutherland Springs. Until last Sunday, it could be written with certainty that few of us knew much of anything about this small Texas town located some 21 miles outside of San Antonio.

As the news unfolded, we learned of evil’s unspeakable practice, and the carnage was and is still too difficult to understand. A deranged killer took the lives of innocent souls without care for age or defenselessness.

And here we are, days later, wishing that we never heard the name Sutherland Springs.

The First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs is home to many families in this small town of some 600 people. It is a town where the chances of knowing just about everyone are not beyond the realm of possibilities. And for many area residents, their congregation is an extension of their families’ lives. For many congregation members, it is the epicenter of spiritual and social life for the town.

For many of us connected to a shul, be it in Teaneck or anywhere else, the spiritual, educational and social participation in a kehilla is the center of our lives and a place of Jewish continuity for generations of our families. We understand worship. We understand prayer and we understand the importance of a faith community, even a small Christian congregation in an unfamiliar part of our country.

We join the Rabbinical Council of America and the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations in condemning this senseless act of violence.

As Rabbi Daniel Korobkin, the RCA’s vice president, said, the perpetrator’s attack violated the sacred space of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, and in doing so violated the sanctity of all houses of worship.

We could not agree more.

Yes, last week at this time, most of us probably couldn’t locate Sutherland Springs on a map. But now we have watched the town’s residents support and help one another. The outpouring of care for each other, along with statements of unbreakable faith, are examples of civility for us all.

It may be a small town, but it’s teaching us with a strong, surviving heart.