Tonight, I am going to Temple. Admittedly, I have not been to a Shabbat service since my cousin’s Bat Mitzvah 5 years ago. But tonight, I am going back.
I am going to Temple because the Nazis shouted “Jew Will Not Replace Us” and because they are desecrating our cemeteries and Holocaust memorials and because they threatened to burn down our Synagogues while worshippers prayed inside.
I am going to Temple because every day, Nazis endanger the lives of people color, of LGBTQ+ people, of Muslims, of people with disabilities, of all people with marginalized identities.
I am going to Temple because they want to break us and they want to wipe us from this Earth. But if we are together, we will not be broken and we will not be silenced.
I am going to Temple to relearn the lessons that taught me what it means to be Jewish:
The Jewish community taught me about privilege and solidarity:
My earliest lesson on what it means to be Jewish was learning about the Rabbis who showed up in Selma and who Marched on Washington. We learned that these are the Rabbis whom we should model ourselves after. These Rabbis understood that our history is ripe with teachings of empathy. These Rabbis understood that though we were strangers and though we were lost, we were able to overcome because doors were opened to us. And the opportunities we had to make a life in America were opportunities that begot opportunities that still beget opportunities. These Rabbis understood that though we struggled, we are not precluded from having privilege. Now we have a duty to extend a hand when others are strangers, when others are lost, and when others need a chance to overcome.
On Passover, when my Rabbi told us that our Temple welcomed refugees from Syria and Iraq, I remembered what it means to be Jewish.
The Jewish community taught me about resilience:
Twelve years ago, a Holocaust survivor came to speak to my 5th grade class. At the end of her talk, she positioned herself at the door so that we could each shake her hand. That handshake was a promise to remember not just that the Holocaust happened, but that she survived. That out of such horror and hate, she survived. And with her life, she taught a new generation to remember, to fight, to push forward.
When I shook her hand and saw in her eyes the trust she had that we would carry her story forward, I remembered what it means to be Jewish.
The Jewish community taught me about forgiveness:
On Yom Kippur, we mark the New Year by repenting- by asking for forgiveness. And I am not sure if there is some higher power I am asking to forgive me, to absolve me of my sins, but I know that I am challenging myself to do better. Judaism taught me that asking for forgiveness is not about apologizing, but about growing. I will ask for forgiveness for the times I caused others harm by addressing the ways in which I perpetuate systems of oppression. I will ask forgiveness for the times I failed to be an ally by refusing to sit on the sidelines as but a witness to hate.
When we read, “Who shall be at peace and who shall be pursued,” and we commit ourselves to stand with the pursued, I will again remember what it means to be Jewish.