Like so many of you, news of the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, left me feeling despondent.
Eleven souls, who simply went to temple on Shabbat morning to support their community, worship and celebrate new life, were gunned down because they were Jewish.
It was hard for me not to picture my own grandparents—or my own synagogue’s elders—when I learned the names, saw the pictures and read the stories of the victims. A doctor, spouses, brothers, a 97-year-old woman. Seeing their faces crushed me. I didn’t know them, but I know people just like them. They’re my family. They’re my ancestors.
And in the minutes, hours and days after the shooting, I felt an old, familiar feeling creep back into my veins: fear.
It’s the same fear I had as a young girl, when a friend in summer camp drew swastikas all over her shirt on t-shirt decorating day. It’s the same fear I had as a pre-teen when we were told in synagogue to hide under our chairs if something bad happened.
And it’s no doubt the same fear that any ethnic minority may have on a daily basis, even while living in the greatest country on earth. Fear at churches or mosques or summer camps or schools. Fear of being targeted simply for who you are or what you believe. It’s exactly what happened in Pittsburgh, and it’s exactly what happened in Charleston, and it’s exactly what is somehow happening in 2018. Here in America, we’re supposed to be proud of our differences, not scared of them—and definitely not scared to show them.
But I’ll admit. The tragedy, and fear of it all, made me wonder—should I remove that picture of myself on Instagram, celebrating my bat mitzvah? Should I scrub my social media accounts of evidence of my Judaism? Does it open me up to hate?
But instead, I’ll do the opposite. I won’t let fear or evil take away the love I have for my culture and my ancestors and my fellow Americans. All I can do is speak and spread tolerance. For as different as we are, we are all the same. And we are no different than those 11 victims in Pittsburgh.