Coming Together After Tragedy

Our prayers and hearts are with those whose lives have been so tragically altered by the school shooting today in Newtown, CT.

In our tradition, immediately following a death we know that no words of comfort can yet be heard, so we offer instead our presence and our empathy as we honor and try to meet the most immediate needs of the bereaved. The circle of grief, horror, and fear is far wider than those who live in the vicinity; every one of us and every one of our children need support and care at this time. We urge people not to spend hours repeatedly viewing newscasts about the tragedy because these images truly haunt us and traumatize us even beyond the terrible effect of the reality of what has occurred.

What helps most at this time is to acknowledge and express feelings, to remain involved in routines that offer some sense of stability and distraction, to draw close to those whom we love and around whom we feel most supported. Many people feel helped by gathering with others in prayer, so attending Shabbat and memorial services can be very meaningful. Others are helped by participating in activities meant to offer comfort and assistance to the bereaved and to help to prevent future tragedies.

Most important is to draw strength and courage at this time of year from the lessons of the Hanukkah. As we light candles, we can remember that even in the darkest of times when we cannot imagine having enough to go on, our tradition offers us reason to trust that there will be light and joy again in our lives.

Please visit the URJ’s Bereavement page for additional resources, including:

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Rabbi Edythe Held Mencher, LCSW

About Rabbi Edythe Held Mencher, LCSW

Rabbi Edythe Mencher serves as Faculty for Sacred Caring Community and Coordinator of the URJ-Ruderman Family Foundation Partnership for Inclusion of People with Disabilities. Rabbi Mencher was ordained by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (New York) in 1999. She received certification from the Westchester Center for the Study of Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy in 1989 and currently serves on the faculty of the Training Institute. She earned her Master of Social Work degree from Hunter College School of Social Work and is a licensed clinical social worker. Rabbi Mencher is the major author of Resilience of the Soul -- Developing Spiritual and Emotional Resilience in Adolescents and their Families, a program guide focusing upon how Jewish communities and tradition can help adolescents and their families develop positive ways of managing stress and difficult emotions. Rabbi Mencher is an adjunct faculty member of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s Interfaith Doctor of Ministry Program in Pastoral Counseling.

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