Why leave Reform out of Pittsburgh tributes?

THE aftermath of the hate-motivated antisemitic murder of 11 Jews in a synagogue in Pittsburgh united all Jews in mourning.

It also laid bare the self-evident truth that we are one family united in values that are far greater than our partisan and ideological differences.

In my local community of south Manchester, it was especially heart-warming to receive an invitation from an Orthodox colleague to join together with all south Manchester Jewish communities for a candlelit vigil in memory of the victims.

As rabbi of a Reform community, most closely comparable to the religious pluralism of Pittsburgh’s Etz Chaim congregation, the symbolism of coming together across Jewish denominations felt especially poignant.

The vigil was well-attended and replete with inspiring speeches offering words of support, unity and hope. Distinguished speakers included Manchester mayor Andy Burnham and other civic dignitaries who spoke of the need to eradicate divisions in our society and fight antisemitism.

The rabbis invited to speak urged us to “honour the dignity of difference and learn to live in co-existence”, proclaiming a loud and clear message “to be proud of who we are and reach out to our neighbours and turn our communities to a hive of peace”.

The effect was stunning.

Only then did I realise that all the participating clergy were from Orthodox south Manchester Jewish communities.

As the rabbi and representative of the only non-Orthodox Jewish community in our area, I was singled out to be excluded.

Excluding living progressive Jews from speaking to honour murdered ones is not a fitting tribute to the Pittsburgh martyrs and their congregation, which describes itself as traditional, progressive and egalitarian.

It is also a false display of Jewish unity to those in attendance, unaware of the divisions perpetuated by the Orthodox establishment.

It shouldn’t be up to antisemites to teach us that the values which unite us as Jews are far greater than our partisan and ideological differences.

I look forward to the day when we may live by our values to honour our differences and love our fellow as ourselves.

The time has come for the so-called representatives of the Manchester Jewish community to cease this divisiveness and truly demonstrate a commitment to “brothers and sisters sitting together in unity”.

(Rabbi) Fabian Sborovsky,
Menorah (Cheshire Reform) Synagogue,

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