When Going to Synagogue Becomes an Act of Courage

March 30, 2022
Maren Hettler

Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States

Class of 2025

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I’ve always thought of synagogue as a place to pray, a place to find community. Most of the time, when I pass by churches, the doors are open. No security guards in sight. Just a welcoming invitation to come inside. But you won’t find the doors to any synagogues wide-open. The welcome is still there, but only once you get past security. 

Blessed are You, God our Lord, King of the universe, who releases the bound.

“Hostage situation is over. Everyone got out safe thank God,” an advisor wrote on our chapter GroupMe. The recent hostage situation at Congregation Beth Israel has been a painful reminder of the antisemitism that affects Jews daily. An armed gunman took four hostages during services at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas. All four hostages escaped uninjured. While the outcome was the best it could possibly be under the conditions, the event is distressing to Jews throughout the United States. Peaceful people at worship should not have to do so in fear. America is facing a rising level of hatred that manifests itself in the harassment of innocent people.

Blessed are You, God our Lord, King of the universe, who grants strength to the weary. 

We have to be resilient. We have no other choice, because without resiliency, the Jewish faith would have disappeared by now. 

Blessed are You, God our Lord, King of the universe, who opens the eyes of the blind. 

Our eyes were already open, but now we wonder: were the eyes of non-Jews opened just a bit? Going to services shouldn’t have to be an act of courage—but as we were reminded recently, it can be. We shouldn’t have to check for the nearest exit or think of safe places to hide. After his escape from Temple Beth Israel, Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker said that he owed his survival to the many security and active shooter courses that he and his congregation participated in. Synagogues and other Jewish institutions regularly offer similar training courses. They shouldn’t have to.  

Blessed are You, God our Lord, King of the universe, who straightens those who are stooped. 

We, as Jews and as people, are capable of bouncing back even though we are shaken. We are strong and we are resilient. 

We are still standing, even though we’re checking for the exits. 

Maren Hettler is a BBG from Nona Bloch Salomon in NTO and she loves olives!

All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.

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