Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
My heart is breaking for America. I cannot get over the shooting in the Pittsburgh synagogue. It happened he morning of my best friend’s son’s Bar Mitzvah. What should have been a day of celebration was a time of grieving and sadness. We were sitting there together as a family and community shell-shocked that such a thing could happen in America. I know there are people in my congregation who voted differently than I did. Even they seemed shaken that as Jews, sitting in place of worship, they might be killed, just for being Jews, sitting in a place of worship. My city is about half Jewish, and we have elected both red and blue candidates. But I am the granddaughter of European immigrants who escaped fascism, and what I see in America now is eerily reminiscent of the stories I heard from Opa and Nana about their time, tinged with all their sadness about their family, neighbors, and friends who died. What will it take to make us feel safe again?
Dear Shell Shocked:
Safety is a huge question. Zero guns are part of an answer, though not very likely. And people who hate will find other means to kill. The only answer I have is to vote and to communicate calmly, and to encourage others to do the same. But that feels like a giant chasm from where we are now as a country. Part of what I had to do when writing my book was to deconstruct my legacy as the child of immigrants: to see how it shaped my worldview and emotional structure. Both my parents made it out of Germany very close to the beginning of WW2. They grew up in an increasingly fascistic country with a charismatic leader who actively espoused hatred of minorities, Jews at the very top of the list. If we do not want to go the way of 1930’s Germany, Americans must return to talking peacefully even when we disagree, calling out hatred and violence whenever we see them, smothering them with our large presence and caring hearts, and defending this great multicultural experiment we call America.
Except for Native Americans, all of our ancestors came from somewhere else and were reviled as that nationality just as Jews, Muslims, Hispanics, and more are currently being attacked. We have to speak out. Every day. Against everything that brings hatred into our society. We need to fight to keep America free. Not just with and from bullets, but with our votes and with our prayers and our acts of kindness to create a strong loving multicultural society. No one has to vote the same way as I do. But please vote, and make your opinions clear, peacefully, at the ballot box. And wherever and whenever you see it, confront violence, hatred, anti-Semitism, attacks on journalists, and other forms of incipient fascism as though your freedom and life depended on it. Because they do, as Jews, Americans, and humans. It is fine to cry when you do so. You will not be alone.