The day my son was born I heard a mother scream but I didn’t initially know it was because her child was born stillborn.
I don’t think about it often but upon occasion I remember seeing the father’s face and the mother. I was exhausted, elated and a little nervous but I remember my joy being tempered for a moment.
When we buried my dear friend David I remember my father gently telling me that I couldn’t understand the pain his parents were going through. Can’t tell you how that came up that day, but I remember.
In January of 1995 I remember walking through the children’s memorial at Yad V’shem with the group I was in Israel with.
The majority of the group were already parents, just a handful of us hadn’t crossed that bridge yet, but I knew from the looks on their faces my own sense of horror was muted.
I watched two interviews today with parents of children who were murdered by the terrorists on October 7 and it made my heart ache. It would always have done so, but now I understand things in a different way.
Is This What My Great-Grandparents Knew?
I have faced more overt antisemitism during the past month than I can remember throughout the entirety of my life. That doesn’t mean I never encountered it or that there were not nasty moments.
There are several moments that stick out but it has never felt as overt, unbridled and acceptable as it does now.
After the Tree of Life shooting in Pittsburgh one of my older cousins told me nothing had changed.
He was a world war two vet who had fought in D-Day and one of my father’s first cousins. He told me we had to be aware and that some things didn’t go away, they just hid.
I didn’t doubt what he said because I had come to that conclusion long before that but something about him saying it felt more…ominous.
Or maybe a better way to phrase it was it carried more weight than when I had heard others say it or thought about it myself.
I was in Manhattan within six months of 9/11 on multiple occasions. I saw the posters of the missing and I heard many stories from people that had lived through it.
I remember the soldiers on the streets carrying M-16s and remarking that it felt a bit like Israel but I never saw anyone try to tear those posters down.
Never saw groups of people celebrating the terrorists and or blaming the victims for having the temerity to have chosen to travel by plane or to have decided to go to work that day.
Never heard people claiming that we ought to dissolve the United States and that everyone here could go somewhere else.
I can’t ask my great-grandparents if any of the things I have heard said sound familiar. They all died before Hamas was formed but if I told them that people had told me they hope Hamas visits my family they would understand.
I know without question that my Great Grandfather Ben would appreciate that I said anyone who came for the family would leave in a bag or three.
Most of them lived long enough to know that we had a place to go if things ever went to hell in America, but I wonder if any of them thought that was a possibility.
I wonder if the hate that is being expressed would resonate in all the wrong ways with them. I don’t know.
But I imagine they would appreciate that none of us today think of ourselves as shtetl Jews that have to walk around on trembling knees.
I’ll reiterate Some Questions Don’t Need To Be Asked and make it clear I am not hiding. I am who I am. I am an American Jew.
If you are the kind of person who gets caught up in which part came first I suggest you ought not to worry about it. They are both central to my identity and in certain places both could be problematic, but let’s be honest, the Jewish part is far more dangerous than the American.
Love me, hate me, whatever. Best to live and let live but if you make it an issue don’t expect me to lie down.
I delved into the stories and videos surrounding October 7th. I have seen/read/heard some of the most terrible things I can think of.
It has wrecked my sleep on multiple occasions.
Fifty-four years old and I have woken myself up as I screamed in anger during a nightmare.
I have woken up enraged because I dreamt I was tied up and discovered I was tangled in the sheets. But I have also read some stories that eased my mind a bit.
Stories about unexpected and unsought for acts of heroism that remind me that Mr. Rogers was right when he said to look for the helpers.
Yeah, there are some bad people out there but there are some pretty damn good ones too. So even though the world feels different to me I sense a different and deeper feeling of community in some areas and that is enough.