Too Close to Home: Attacks on French Jews

ShowImage.ashx Part-REF-TS-Par8070869-1-1-0After women shopping for their Shabbat meals were gunned down in a kosher supermarket in Paris, 5,000 police officers have been dispatched to secure Jewish schools and synagogues throughout France. A unity rally in Paris rallied around the Jewish community.

It’s as if it’s happening to me. Here. Now. To us.

Although I have lived my entire life as an American Jew, I have always felt as if attacks on Jew, today or in the past, are hitting me directly. I’ve grown up with the sense that I, too, suffered in the Holocaust. When I was single in my 20s, I slept with a hammer under my bed, fearful of dreams that Cossacks would bang at my door, awakening me in the dark night to drag me away into the tundra.

I can’t explain why. It’s just something I own as if it is happening to me.

copy_0_simchat-torah-2012-300-wmThis morning, we awoke to a white blanket of snow covering the land outside. My favorite tree has delicate white limbs like a painting. The world is beautiful and quiet, peaceful and crisp.

On the way to school this morning, CBC radio news reported about the victims of the terror attacks in Paris, aimed at Jews, and reported about the efforts of the French government, and leaders around the world, to support the Jews in France and bring them to safety.

Three kids filled the back seat of my car, and another rode shotgun beside me. I dabbed at tears filling my eyes. I couldn’t help it. It’s just too much, too horrible, too real.

spiritualI’ve spent my life dedicated to finding commonality between myself and others. I’ve found inspiration and meaning in church sermons and in the way Muslim women bake bread for their mosque. I’ve yearned to build bridges between communities, showing how similar we all really are, eschewing stories of difference and opposition and hatred.

And yet.

It’s not that easy. People cling to their hatreds and their beliefs as if they are a lifeline. Why, I wonder, do we want to find truth in differences? Why do we insist that only we can be right and everyone else wrong?

Why must we live shrouded in a dark cloud of otherness, pointing the finger at those who speak, look, walk and believe differently?

I don’t have any answers. All I know is that on this snowy morning, there are children fearful of going to school, mothers reluctant to return to a kosher supermarket.

common_tables_logo_gold_123c__3__copy_pprfI’m on page 600-something of Herman Wouk’s The Winds of War, and I just read about Hitler’s special action units designed to plow down all Jews they encounter upon invading Russia. The year was 1941. No one knew about it. In all my learning about history, I’ve never heard this part, only the concentration camps and the ghettos.

Such hatred toward my people. And all we really stand for is one God, a divine light shining upon the world, traditions we hold dear that have been celebrated for centuries.

There is poetry in the prayers I read from my prayerbook. Inspiration on ways to live. A yearning to elevate our days and nights, to make this life something more than ordinary.

I do what my grandparents did, and what their grandparents did before them. There is comfort in that. Do I deserve to die because of it?

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