OTS Emissaries to New Zealand Respond to Christchurch Massacre
In response to the massacre last Friday in a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, which took the lives of 50 Muslim worshipers and left about 50 injured, Ohr Torah Stone emissary rabbis to the Jewish communities of Wellington and Auckland called out to their congregations to pray for and contribute to the victims of the massacre.
Rabbis Ariel Tal and Natti Friedler, emissary rabbis from Ohr Torah Stone’s Straus-Amiel shlichut program, called out to their Jewish communities in Wellington and Auckland respectively, and asked that the traditional charity money given out on Purim (matanot la’evyonim) also be donated to support the families of the casualties. As part of the Purim mitzva, which requires every Jew to give gifts to the needy during the course of Purim day, and is usually performed by giving money to charity, money will be collected for the families of the victims as well as for the rehabilitation of the community that has suffered great losses.
“The evil that struck Christchurch is the manifestation of Amalek in our times, here in New Zealand. On Shabbat we read Parashat Zachor, reminding all of us that Amalek is still relevant. Terrorists and evil-doers still lurk among our communities seeking to destroy Am Israel and any other communities, out of sheer hate and intolerance. Our hearts go out to the victims, their families, and communities in Christchurch and throughout New Zealand. Our hope and prayer is that this monstrous act with never happen again!
“Yet the question remains: what can we do as a Jewish community in these dark times? We mourn with the victims of Christchurch and did not stop our tefillot, our prayers, because they were needed more than ever in these dark times. Because we are in an unprecedented time of terror in New Zealand, and this is the time to strengthen our communities. This is the time to come together.
“Mordechai and the Jewish people are the antithesis of Haman and create hope and strength wherever they go. Mordechai fights evil, and ultimately defeats Haman.
“This Purim let’s strengthen the Jewish communities in New Zealand and show our solidarity for the residents of this amazing country. We will raise funds to support the victims of Christchurch through our matanot la’evyonim, our Purim gifts, and make a statement that terror, fear and despair will not prevail, hope and love will! We encourage all of our members and wider Jewish community to show up for our Purim events in Auckland and Wellington, and will publicise it with the hashtag #ShowUpForPurim. Just as Queen Esther ordered Mordechai when Haman’s threat to eradicate the Jewish People was imminent – לך כנוס את כל היהודים – go and gather all of the Jews! So too, we will gather in these dark times and strengthen our community.”
Rabbi Kenneth Brander, President and Rosh HaYeshiva of Ohr Torah Stone said, “We stand in solidarity with the victims of the massacre in Christchurch and send our heartfelt condolences to the families of the murdered and the wounded. As a people that has experienced hatred and evil on the basis of our religious, it is even more important that we stand with the Muslim community and call for an end to hatred and racism. We teach our students the values of love and friendship, and our graduates, now serving as rabbinical emissaries throughout the world, teach about the good that binds us together as human beings. In this way we will add light and vanquish the darkness.”
Rabbi Ariel Tal said, “The attack in New Zealand is similar to Tisha B’Av and the sharp awakening that hit the USA in the aftermath of 9/11. But all religions in New Zealand support each other, and unfortunately, now this country too needs to start fighting terrorism. Being a Jew in New Zealand is complex and filled with challenges such as assimilation, a lack of accessibility to kosher food, and its distance from other Jewish communities, and now in addition we have the fear of a terror attack.”
On Tuesday morning, 19 March, the two Straus-Amiel rabbis visited the center where the Islamic community has gathered together to support one another, pray and receive updates, as the imams were conducting the burial ceremonies for the victims. The center was packed with many consolers from Pakistan, Yemen, Australia and other countries around the world, and received the Jewish/Israeli delegation with great warmth.
“We have come to comfort, to hug and to share in the community’s grief,” said Rabbi Ariel Tal. Rabbi Friedler said: “Today we paid respect to the victims of the Christchurch massacre, and showed support and unity from the Jewish community in New Zealand to the bereaved families and the Muslim community in New Zealand. May their memory be a blessing to all the people of New Zealand.”