On Saturday, October 27th 2018, 11 innocent people were killed in their place of worship. These are our thoughts:
Hearing the news evoked numerous emotions in me: sadness, fear, and disappointment. It hurts me to know that these people were killed in a synagogue on Shabbat.
Shabbat is very important to me. It’s a day where you focus on the special things in life. It’s a day that makes you appreciate being alive. How dare someone take that away from a group of people? For me, shul is a safe space. It is a place where I feel comfortable being emotionally vulnerable. How dare someone take that away from me?
This sadness, fear, and disappointment is not a new feeling.
About four years ago, I attended a vigil for four Jewish teenagers that were brutally murdered. When I heard that the boys had been killed, it made me sick. But, the horrible thing is that I knew that in time I, like many others, might forget that it happened.
Still, that vigil changed my life... because at that moment I realized what it meant to be a Jew. Before that day, I knew about all of the horrible things our people have endured, but I did not fully understand what that meant for me.
That night, staring at the candles that formed the names of the victims, I finally realized the truth. My rabbi said something that stuck with me forever: “Jews are all
targets; this time the offender just happened to be farther away.” He was right. The people that were killed were not killed because of something they were doing. They were killed because of who they were. I wear a Star of David around my neck every single day. The only reason it was those poor people instead of me, was because they were closer to the offender.
The Shabbat candles flicker. My parents yell for my sisters to join the table. It is getting late - my grandparents eyes begin to close as steadily as the dripping wax. My father says a prayer over the food, we eat, we laugh, we end the night. Peacefully.
Growing up in a Jewish community, I never feared who I was. I never felt as if I was risking my life to practice what I believe. I never thought my family would have to endure the pain that their ancestors did.
It is October 27th, 2018 and hundreds of Jewish men, women and children gather in a synagogue to pray. A gunman enters. He kills 11. The burst of his rifle burns for seconds - the flame does not last.
On October 27th, a safe place is stripped of its meaning. On October 27th, a synagogue became a shooting ground. On October 27th, it became too easy to lose hope - to be fearful of what is to come.
How do you respond to an act of terror against your people? Do you respond with anger? Fear? Frustration?
While I did feel every ounce of those emotions, I did so briefly. I did not focus on the negativity. We cannot focus on the negativity. The Jewish people are a community that cannot be moved by hate - we must continue to act as a one, as a family, leaning on one another in times of need. We must use our voices to speak out, encouraging love and peace. We must rise above this and be unapologetically ourselves, unapologetically Jewish in all practices and forms of life.
As one, let us honor those who have passed while fighting for a world where they can be seen as equals. Let us celebrate life. Let us embrace our heritage.
We cannot let evil win.
Let the Shabbat candles' flames burn brighter than the bursts of gunshots. Let the Hanukkah candles glow longer than the torches of Neo-Nazis. Let the light in our souls be stronger than the fear.