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A Letter to Our Congregation

To our beloved congregation,

There is no denying that we are living in a time when the most profound failings of our society are coming to the fore. After months of fear and uncertainty, as the world has been universally – and yet very unequally – impacted by COVID-19, we are faced with yet another instance of an unarmed Black person killed by police officers. It is heartbreaking but not surprising, which makes it all the more heartbreaking.

We stand with those, around the country and the world, who protest current and historical racial injustice. We stand aghast at the horrific death of George Floyd, yet another innocent Black life lost at the hands of a white police officer.  The callousness of this murder, with the violence of racial and economic inequalities already laid bare by the virus, has shaken our country to its core.

Each of us is struggling to respond, as Jews, as Americans, as human beings. We know that members of our Eitz Chayim community are engaging: through donating to causes that support bail money for protesters, the families of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery and Tony McDade, and organizations that support community empowerment and civil liberties; attending rallies and protests here in Boston; having important and painful conversations with friends and family about systemic racism and white supremacy and ways in which we are unknowingly complicit; and educating ourselves and our children by learning from Black activists and academics. This is just a start.

We value now, as perhaps never before in our lives, the moral grounding of our Jewish heritage and the support we find in each other as a community.

We are inspired by the learning of our Rabbi Liza, with her constant reminder that Judaism forbids us to give up hope, and by her invitations to plumb the Torah for insight into our lives and our world.  We are inspired by the Eitz Chayim community, who have responded to the multiple crises by showing care for each other and for the larger community, by supporting and participating in Eitz Action and a host of other public interventions, and, not least, by participation in online Shabbat services at higher rates than we have ever seen before.  Our tradition teaches, in the name of Rabbi Hillel, that, “In a place where there are no human beings, try to be a human being.” (Avot, 2:6)

As we write, and in the midst of multiple emergencies gripping our country, we mark the transition, at the end of the current month, to new leadership at Congregation Eitz Chayim. With the advice of the soon-to-become past president (Sam), the Board of Directors and committee chairs, Daniel, our new president, and Amanda, our new vice president, will work together to lead the congregation in directions that help us expand and grow while remaining unwaveringly committed to our community’s values.

Even with so many unknowns ahead, we are honored to lead Congregation Eitz Chayim, where innovative and inclusive Jewish voices have a space to speak to the challenges of today’s world.

Thank you for placing your trust in us. Please reach out to any of us with your thoughts and ideas about the next steps for our congregation in this difficult time.


Daniel Serfaty (President-Elect)
Amanda Gasser-Wingate (Vice-President-Elect)
Sam Petuchowski (President)

published June, 2020

Learn more about some of the ways Eitz Chayim is encouraging our community -- individually and collectively -- to engage in racial justice.

Also, Eitz Chayim has joined with many Jewish organizations and synagogues in signing a letter in support of Black Lives Matter.

Fri, June 14 2024 8 Sivan 5784