Rabbi Jonathan Hughes, of Radlett United Synagogue, has a powerful message for the community following the Pittsburgh attacks last month:
“We must come together and be as robust in our pursuit of peace, as some are in their pursuit of war and violence.”
His comments follow the events of Saturday, October 21, when an American gunman shot 11 worshippers dead in a massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue.
He added: “The massacre was a tragedy and it shook the whole community, but we responded positively by having a Sabbath service, where people made an effort and the shul was completely full.
“We prayed for those who lost their lives and reflected on the pain and suffering caused to loved ones of the victims.”
While the rabbi said he was shocked by the violent act, he suggested that he was not surprised by the intent.
He said: “It’s always going to be shocking when a violent attack happens in a synagogue or house of prayer, but the manifestation of the attack; anti-Semites willing to kill Jews, is not shocking. It’s happened far too often in history to come as a shock.”
Having been raised in a non-Jewish environment before embracing Judaism in his teenage years, the rabbi said he has seen anti- Semitism from both perspectives.
He said: “My father was not Jewish and I was brought up in Reading with no Jewish background, but I was Jewish on my mother’s side.
“But I was speaking to a non-Jewish friend the other day after these attacks, and he said ‘thank god there are many other good people in the world who don’t think how the attacker did.’
“And I agree, as my father was one of those people.”
The rabbi also had a message of solidarity aimed directly at the Jewish community.
He said: “I told them (Radlett United Synagogue goers), on Passover as we read from our prayer book it says in every generation, haters will rise up and try to annihilate us, but god saves us every time. This has certainly come true, but the Jewish people always survive and we will continue to pray and go to shul and hold our heads high.”
He also said that the synagogue have a vigorous approach to their security, with CCTV security gates and trained guards to ensure the safety of shul-goers.