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I am a Jew

Scott Zoback, Facebook
October 28, 2018

I am a Jew.

With that birthright comes a burden.

A burden of asking my parents when I was a kid why there was a cop stationed outside of our synagogue on the most sacred days of the year, and of wondering in the back of my head if strangers walking into our temple were there to join us or to harm us.

A burden of learning young that there are people who would always despise me, sometimes violently, for who I am.

As Jews, we inherit these truths the same as we inherit our names.

I am a Jew.

I am scared.

Yesterday, a man screaming “ALL JEWS MUST DIE” walked into the synagogue my wife grew up in, and did his best to enforce his own words, slaughtering 11 of my birthright.

With the history of my people…with the burdens that are our birthright…this is an attack on each of as much as all of us. It hurts. It’s personally painful.

My grandmothers both fled the Holocaust and two generations later, here in the greatest country in the world, my family and my people are again touched by violent Anti-Semitism…the most murderous incident against Jews in modern American history.

Make no mistake: Anti-Semitism and hate are on the rise in America, fueled by those who legitimize it through dog whistles, coded speech, and false equivalencies. It scares me as a Jew and a human.

Those fears were realized this week repeatedly, through pipe bombs and the Kroger murders and Pittsburgh.

All at places of tranquility. I mean, Squirrel Hill, where Tree of Life sits, was Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood. A quiet, residential place. A synagogue at its center. Where many people I love spent their formative years, so you want to know how I’m feeling?

I am a Jew.

I am angry.

I’m angry at those in power who sow seeds of hate and then feign surprise when they see buds, blossoms and flowers.

I’m angry at people tossing gasoline on a spark and being ‘sad’ when they see flames.

I am angry at thoughts and prayers. With all due respect, screw thoughts and prayers.

These people were literally thinking. And praying. And they got shot.

They survived the Holocaust and births and deaths and life….and on the one day a week to pause, to think and to pray…they were snuffed out.

I am angry at the virulent and increasingly ubiquitous hate permeating our society, and the lack of urgency in calling it out and killing it.

So here I am. Hineni.

A Jew. An angry, scared Jew who isn’t going away.

Because yesterday, that oft-quoted chestnut of “first they came” was made wholly irrelevant to me. They came for us. They came for the Jews. They came for me. So who will speak up?

As Jews, we will speak up for ourselves. And we will speak for all those under attack. Until our voices are hoarse, in their names we will speak out.

That is our birthright. That is our burden.

May we all – of all beliefs and faiths – speak out.

And may their memory be a blessing.

October 31, 2018 at 9:50 am Leave a comment

I knew those people…

I knew those people… Joyce Feinberg, Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Jerry Rabinowitz, Cecil Rosenthal, David Rosenthal, Bernice Simon, Sylvan Simon, Daniel Stein, Melvin Wax, and Irving Younger.

No, not literally, but any Jew who’s spent any time in a synagogue knows these people. They are the synagogue stalwarts; the kind, loving, smiling, welcoming faces who show up every week for Shabbat. They’re not necessarily the community machers but volunteer to help for everything, show up for education sessions, help make food for the oneg, and seem so part of the synagogue that without them it’s as if a wall is missing. We take for granted that they will always be around.

And now they’re not. A senseless act of hatred took them away in a proverbial second. We are left with disbelief and grief. And afterward… ?

It’s a cliche to say “they will not die in vain.” They did not sacrifice themselves, hatred took them away. Hatred, bigotry, discrimination, prejudice, anti-Antisemitism, are all the same. After our grief, we who are left must say, “I will not accept hatred towards anyone.” And I will not counter hate with hate but with civility and firm resolve to denounce hate mongers no matter their position.

And I will remember those I knew.

October 29, 2018 at 8:35 am 1 comment

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