Prayers for Pittsburgh Service – President Sandra Armstrong’s Opening Speech

November 1st, 2018 – The Prayers for Pittsburgh Service was held at Temple Emanu-El with approximately 300 in attendance including representatives of congregations across Oahu. It was described as “A gathering for members of the Oahu Jewish and other faith communities to pray for the victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting and their loved ones as well as to show support for the Jewish community of Pittsburgh.”

The Ceremony was opened by Sof Ma’arav President Sandra Armstrong. Here is a copy of her remarks:

“Sarah’s lifetime-the span of Sarah’s life-came to one hundred and twenty-seven years. This week’s Torah portion is Chayei Sarah, which translates as the lifetime of Sarah. The title is her life. Just as we mourn our friends in Pittsburgh, it is their loss of living and breathing on earth that we mourn and yet we honor their lives. In honoring their lives, they still live among us.

What can we do in our grief over the senseless killing of our innocent friends gathered together for this weekly Shabbat Shachrit service? They were simply living their lives as Shabbat regulars to make a minyan of ten, to pray to G-d, to be part of a community. Tonight we can gather together and speak of our nation’s incredible loss. Yet, we can do one more thing to make our world a better place. We can affiliate, get involved, and become active members of a religious congregation. This is what our friends in Pittsburgh died doing.

As their precious spirits remain with us, what can we do, as humans, merely earthly creatures, to fix this enormous, gut-wrenching wound to our people, the nation, and to the world. Make a difference, stand up and be counted, honor those who were simply doing what they do best going to synagogue, a safe place to pray. They were mensches  – people of integrity and honor. They were the mainstays of their congregation.

They came to the earlier morning service to be part of their community. If you want to change our world and the religious island life of so many congregations start now.  Join in and make your voice be heard because our friends were killed doing what we have an opportunity, the freedom, the hope and the promise to fulfill here in Hawaiʻi. To create a more positive, more proactive, more solid community and stand up and say, I am going to be counted as a member of my faith and I will become a part of this right here in this place, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean – because the need is great and because I am needed.

Let’s dig deep in our souls and maintain the Yiddishkeit in the state of Hawaiʻi by being a part of something bigger than ourselves. Make a difference to others. When Jewish Community Services of Hawaiʻi comes knocking on your door to help the needy among us, respond to them. Sign up for Family Promise because these are all good people that are trying their best to get back on their feet again. Become a mentor and help educate our children in a religious school.

Today is a day to make a commitment to honor our faith in G-d, to honor all those who came before us and to retain the remnants of Judaism in this place that we call home Hawaiʻi. To carry on today what our friends who were murdered can no longer do. We can take our forefathers’ history of Sarah our matriarch and Abraham our patriarch from thousands of years ago. And continue the future of understanding what it means to live a life of giving back to others. We have the power and the opportunity to change our lives for the better within a community.

The campaign across the mainland to show our solidarity as a people for this week is SHOW UP FOR SHABBAT

This is a very good idea.”