No, none of our family members were hurt.
No, no one we knew personally was there.
No, that bad man is not alive anymore.
“Why would one person hurt other people?” you asked me.
I don’t know. But he did. He hurt people who are gay and people who are straight. He hurt Jews. Muslims. Christians. Atheists. He hurt people who live here in Orlando. In Florida. The United States. Canada. Israel.
He was a man who believed that people aren’t allowed to be different. That people aren’t allowed to love whomever they want. That love isn’t the most important thing.
I know it’s so hard for you to imagine that anyone could believe something so ridiculous, and I am so grateful that you have grown up in a family and in a community that has allowed, and God willing will always permit you the freedom, to love anyone you choose. Because love is love is love.
I wish I had answers that would make you feel better. I wish I could promise that nothing like this will ever happen again.
But the truth is that there have been, are and will always be bad people in this world who do bad things. They hurt others. They aren’t nice.
But our job is simply to love. We must love everyone. Those that are like us and those that are different. Those people who are easy to love, and those who make our job of loving them much more difficult.
Judaism teaches us that we should always try to be like Moses’ brother, Aaron, who “loved peace, and pursued peace, who loved all people, and strove to bring them closer to God/Torah.” You have everything inside of you that you need to be like Aaron – loving your siblings, your classmates, and anyone you meet with a full heart and an open mind. I pray for you that the love you show to others comes back to you tenfold.
You know I never like to make promises that I might not be able to keep. But what I can promise is that I will always do my best to protect you and keep you safe. And that I love you very much.
Rabbi Sharon Barr Skolnik, a native of Cleveland, lives in Orlando, Florida, with her husband and three children. She is blessed to currently be a stay-at-home mom, where she is afforded the opportunity to create ways of bringing Judaism to life for her own children every day.