Since I last posted on OnceEveryThirty there have been more hate shootings – one at a Pittsburg synagogue during Shabbat services, another in a California country western bar on college night, and one in a Kentucky Kroger . . .
On Election Day there were swastikas painted on my local streets, sidewalks, and high school.
Wednesday there was a patron escorted out of the Hippodrome in Baltimore during a production of Fiddler on the Roof for shouting “Heil Hitler, Heil Trump”.
We all want to feel safe. I don’t. Do you?
Maybe because of these events, and maybe despite them, I feel like right now it is important for me to be Jewish out loud.
I am nervous, jumpy, anxious, and depressed about the current state of our American culture. So, why am I responding to those feelings by wearing my faith on my sleeve?
I’m not sure, but I feel the need to do so.
I’ve been thinking about this since the Tree of Life shooting. 48 hours after the shooting a vigil was held at my Jewish Community Center (JCC). My husband and I attended. Of course we did; we are Jewish. We are very active in our Jewish community. It has always been our safe place. Our sons grew up in JCC day care, learned their culture in our temple religious school, played basketball on the JCC team, worked at JCC summer camp, were bar mitzvahed here, and will eventually marry under a chuppah.
Hundreds of local Jews came to the vigil. Hundreds of Binghamton University faculty and students attended the vigil. Of course they did, they are Jewish.
What gave me goose bumps were the people who came out on that cold dark night who were not Jewish. Cars streamed towards the JCC from every direction. It was like that scene in Field of Dreams – a procession of headlights as far as the eye could see. People came from all over to satisfy a shared need to connect. Some in attendance were elected officials who were there to be seen as well as show us their support. Others were faith leaders who took to the stage and offered their words of compassion and solidarity. A neighbor family who reached out to hug us, attend a church in town. I smiled at a retired co-worker and her husband who drove from Endicott with other members of their church to show support.
Our community stood shoulder to shoulder with people of all faiths, races, and ethnicities and listened to Christians and Muslims call us their brothers and sisters. A local Imam said that if his Jewish brothers and sisters were afraid, we should call the mosque and they would come. He said they would form a circle around our temples so that we may pray in peace. He promised to be our first line of defense if anyone meant to do us harm. It brings tears to my eyes just to think about his words. A Christian faith leader said they would be with us on Shabbat and fill the seats of our temples with people of all faiths because we are all one. They did, and the next Friday night service at our Temple was packed.
This outpouring of support from our community made me feel safe. It made me feel brave. It made me focus on the good people in this country, not just the evil.
A reoccurring theme of the speakers at the vigil was to leave that night and go out and do good. If all of us, 800+ members of our community, would all participate in acts of kindness, then love wins.
Love must win and I believe love starts with acceptance. As long as there are people who focus on us vs. them, and Jews are seen as ‘them’ I believe there will be anti-semitism. I can’t fix that. But, maybe I can be a Jew that someone knows. Maybe I can be a Jew that someone appreciates. Maybe I can be that person who you know, who you know is Jewish, who seems like ‘us’ instead of ‘them.’
I am your teacher.
I am your neighbor.
I am your co-worker.
I am your customer.
I am your volunteer.
I am just like you;
and all of ‘us’ deserve to live in a nation without fear.
We are all in this together. It is going to take all of ‘us’ to make change in this world.