It’s been two and half weeks since 11 people were killed and 7 more were injured while they were praying during Shabbat morning services at a synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood in Pittsburgh, PA. Like many Jewish Americans, I have been shaken, angry and at times, despondent, as I’ve tried to process the worst act of Anti-Semitism on American soil. I’ve also had moments of feeling love, comfort and hopefulness as I’ve witnessed interfaith rallies being held here in Philadelphia, in my hometown of Hollidaysburg, PA (less than 2 hours from Pittsburgh) and across the country.
The news cycle has moved on from covering the synagogue shooting—since October 27th, our country has gone through the Midterm elections, the California wildfires, the firing of the Attorney General and actually a dozen more mass shootings (including the one in Thousand Oaks, CA, that took the lives of 12 innocent people.
But for me, as a Gen-X Jewish person who has grown up during a time in this country in which I felt safe from Anti-Semitic violence, I am still processing how the shooting has impacted me as a person–and as a mom raising Jewish children. I’m writing this blog to share with friends of all faith and cultural traditions—in hopes that we can continue to support each other. What I want you to know, after the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting is that:
I am grateful: In the first few days following the shooting, I touched base with friends and family near and far….it felt important to connect and be part of community. I was incredibly touched and moved by how many non-Jewish friends reached out to me, just because I’m Jewish. An email from a parent of my daughter’s friend…a text from a colleague…a hug from a woman in the neighborhood whom I see when we’re walking dogs….the kind words from the crossing guard who greets me every morning as I head to work. Your sincere expressions of condolences—made to me as an individual but with caring for the Jewish community at large—helped me to not feel scared and alone. Thank you.
I am feeling vulnerable: That being said, it’s hard to shake the feelings of fear and vulnerability that have been stirred up. I’ve been distracted, overwhelmed and on some nights, experiencing insomnia since the attacks happened. I’m incredibly sad that my daughter, who just celebrated her Bat Mitzvah a month ago, has to absorb that these tragic murders took place in a synagogue much like our own. As a granddaughter of a German-Jewish refugee who lost all of his family in the Holocaust, this Anti-Semitic violence has triggered trauma that’s part of my DNA. I share all of this personal experience so that you know many Jewish people—your friends, co-workers, neighbors—are feeling the same right now.
I am here to share resources: What’s really clear to me is that we need to continue to educate all of our children about the dangers of prejudice and intolerance towards any group of people, based on their race, religion, disability, gender, sexuality or other aspect of their identity. As someone who’s worked as a Jewish educator and disability inclusion advocate, I have lots of ideas for books, resources and curriculum to use with your children. Please feel free to connect with me via the comments below or via twitter. Now is the time for us to affirm as parents and educators that children need to be taught to value others.
I am committed to fighting injustice with you: As a Jewish person, I am committed to speaking out for diversity in our country and believe that the best way that we can fight Anti-Semitism is to keep joining together. I am so happy to be part of a synagogue community, Mishkan Shalom, that is active with POWER Philadelphia, an interfaith coalition that represents over 50 congregations in Southeastern and Central Pennsylvania.
I am dedicated to demanding sane gun laws: How many more mornings can we endure when our phones alert us to another mass shooting? What will the impact of growing up in “massacre generation” have on our children? I can’t bring myself to imagine what it must have been like to be inside the synagogue in Pittsburgh, ready for morning prayers, and to have experienced that brutal gunfire. As a mom, as a Jewish person, and as a human being, I refuse to believe that our country can’t pass more effective gun control laws and I am committed to speaking out and supporting organizations working towards that end.
I would love to hear about your thoughts and feelings in the aftermath of the Pittsburgh shooting…please share in the comments below.