Jews are resilient. We have had a lot of awful things thrown at us and yet we are able not only to survive, but also to flourish and laugh at ourselves.
On August 11th, we will mark Tisha B’av, a day we take to remember the tragedies that have befallen our people, beginning with the destruction of the Temple that held the Holy of Holies, and continuing through the Holocaust, although it has its own day of remembrance. In the past, I overlooked this holiday since it occurs during the summer when we are typically at camp or on vacation.
This year is different. The shooting at Tree of Life in Pittsburgh was personal for me; my Mother-in-law Joyce Fienberg was murdered there. Joyce did not go to Synagogue that morning in order to fight a policy, defy a person, or make a stand. She went for one reason: to pray in peace – the cherished right of any American.
I see in Pittsburgh an echo of another worrying time, that of the pogroms that took place throughout our history, when villages, families, and children were attacked simply for being Jews. As a result, many Jewish families fled to America to escape religious persecution. Anti-Semitism follows us no matter where we go, or what we do.
Healing the World and Building Resiliency
On Tisha B’av, our thoughts turn to our long history and our ongoing survival. How DID we survive? How do we apply this to today?
Take Action, with Tikkun Olam as a Guide
When Joyce was murdered, I was not only crushed at my family’s loss, but crushed by the size of the never-ending problem of anti-Semitism. But I’m a Jewish Woman and we just get things done. I can’t fix the world, but I can try to fix my little corner. It is an act of courage and resiliency to act (even with one small step) despite the situation.
This is one of the keys to resiliency that I’ve learned – you can’t do it alone. Many Jews throughout the centuries (including many Sephardi Jews in the past 50 years) have kept not only family connections, but religious connections for travel, for business and sometimes or survival.
On Shabbat one week after the Pittsburgh Shooting, there was a call for all Jews to go to their respective synagogues and pray. You may have been part of it. Some people were afraid. Some people were defiant. Either way, they came. For our family, it was a life-affirming moment to see as many people turn up to pray as to turn up to mourn. Reconnecting with the Jewish Community in such a powerful way made us all stronger and ready to turn to healing.
In my time working with Homeland Security in Washington DC, preparing for the worst is a critical part of resiliency. To you this might mean security, it may mean doing drills, but it also means being ready to respond. Recently, I spoke with a member of a local church that had put out a rainbow flag for Pride Month. They were shocked and unnerved to find swastikas and other hate language spray-painted on their outside walls. It left the congregation feeling helpless and scared. But they weren’t alone. Multiple families and other houses of faith (including a synagogue and other Church) came to wash off the paint as a Community. In turn, the congregation felt the love and support that truly defined their town. Consider joining or starting a response team to help in a situation like this. It truly makes a difference, both by demonstrating the rejection of hate as well as building bridges across faiths.