To say I am still in disbelief on what happened on Saturday does not even come close to describe my emotions. Saturday is the day of worship for people, a day where we can forget all the daily stresses of our lives and spend it with the ones we love. Growing up my dad always looked forward to Saturday and my siblings and I did too because it was a day we could spend with our dad doing the things we all wanted. We would start off the day with Shabbas services, have lunch and then spend the rest of our day with our parents playing games or watching movies.
This was our routine for every Saturday of my life and every Saturday went the way I wanted it, until this past Saturday.
For this to happen on Shabbas scares me but for it to happen during a ceremony to celebrate a new life makes me sick to my stomach. One of the eleven victims survived the Holocaust, the deadliest massacre of not just the Jewish people but people in general. The shooter screamed "all Jews must die" when he attacked the synagogue. Antisemitism still exists and while there may be doubts this is an example that there is so much to be addressed in the US.
I grew up spending every Saturday at synagogue but not when I mention synagogue this image will pop into my mind. Not my Bar Mitzvah, not my dad calling me up for an Aliyah or to have another honor but a synagogue with the name life in it being the end of people's lives. People like me who were Jewish and proud.
Judaism is one of the most important things in my life. I grew up in a Jewish household and went to a Jewish camp. I wear a necklace with the Hebrew word for life and helped restart a Jewish fraternity on my campus. This villain wanted Jews to die but he didn't realize that the Jewish people do not go so easily. People have come up to me and asked: "If the Jews are God's chosen people why have they been through so many hardships?"
I do not know the answer to this question but I do know that the Jewish people are some of the strongest people in history.
When Israel was conquered by different religions and empires the Jews kept their faith and did not take the easy way out. This could have cost them their lives but the Jews would rather have died Jewish instead of changing their faith. So fast forward to today where people are grieving for the eleven people lost but these eleven people will always be with me. They were bright souls in the community and people that could make the room beam with their presence. They will not be forgotten but most importantly they inspire us. They inspire us to make a change, to come together and of course to keep fighting for our faith. Judaism may have to deal with some obstacles but it is not going anywhere.
To be a Jew is to be strong with a strength that has outlived persecutions. It is to be wise against ignorance, honest against piracy, harmless against evil, kind against cruelty. Today, I was lucky enough to observe a beautiful moment where a vigil to remember the lost lives was overflowing with people. Whether they were Jewish or not they cared about what happened and are here to help. There might be people who want Judaism to end but there are even more people who want it to grow.