At 9:00 this Sunday morning I dropped my girls off at religious school. At 9:00 this Sunday morning I cried as I dropped my girls off at religious school. With tears streaming down my face I thanked the armed guard ready to give up his life to protect my children. At 9:00 this Sunday morning I kissed my girls good bye and for the first time ever, prayed that I would see them at pick-up. My morning was the same for every Jewish family. A morning filled with sadness and fear.
On the way to religious school I prepared the girls for the armed guard. I told them what happened in Pittsburgh. I told them some people hate Jews. Some people blame Jews for the world's problems. Some people no matter how hard we try will always hate Jews.
Penelope asked if the shooter was a "psychopath."
This question sparked an entire discussion about antisemitism and what it looks like. It is not always a "psychopath" with a gun. It is not always the genocide of six million. It is not always the destruction of temples and Jewish owned businesses. With a shaky voice I told my girls of different times I experienced antisemitism.
I told them about the time my 11th grade English teacher told me to stop crying about the C on my paper because in the end I would still get into Harvard with the rest of the Jews.
I told them about how the Hebrew Club was not recognized at graduation even though all the other foreign language clubs were.
I told them how during sorority rush it is understood the Jewish girls will be cut from the majority of the houses after round one.
And then silently I remembered all the times we were almost chosen as parents, but ultimately looked over because we were Jewish. Antisemitism does not only come with guns. It comes with actions and words.
Antisemitism is as simple as the music teacher telling a then eight year old Penelope, there was no time to include a Hanukkah song in the holiday performance even though it was two weeks away.
Antisemitism is a Jewish friend posting to the neighborhood Facebook page because her son was teased/bullied for not celebrating Christmas.
Antisemitism is being told the Jewish kids can just hang the ornament from their door knob and we do not need to change the craft for the holiday school party.
Antisemitism is being asked where to throw a party because your friend knows you've found the best deals since well you know....you're good at research.
Antisemitism is practices, games, school activities all being scheduled during major Jewish holidays.
You may be thinking these are not acts of antisemitism. And maybe you are correct. Or maybe it is the word and my using the word that is really bothering you. Calling it ignorance or a mistake does not change what it is. It is antisemitism. Antisemitism can look like no big deal to the outside world. People can call it a lack of tolerance for others. People can call it a million other things. They don't call it antisemitism because we tend to reserve that term for the evil with guns. The truth of the matter is we all have bias, and the sooner we admit it the sooner we can learn from it.
I do not believe the athletic associations, our schools, our children's friends are deeply seeded with antisemitism. But what I do believe is no one would ever schedule a school performance or athletic game during Ash Wednesday, Easter, or Christmas. We, the Jews, must continue to remind our community to respect our religion and respect our time to practice our religion - Year after year.
What does antisemitism not look like?
It is when your kindergarten teacher asks you if the holiday crafts are inclusive. It is when your third grade teachers tell you all religions are respected in their classrooms. It is when the music teacher includes not only Hanukkah songs, but Diwali in the upcoming holiday performance. It is when an entire team of teachers invites you into their classroom to teach others about your holiday. It is when the administrators in the school wish your children a happy new year in September.
When you acknowledge the difference, then accept the difference, that is when antisemitism ends.
Today I told my daughters now more than ever we still stand proud as Jews. We will continue to be different. We will continue to practice our faith loudly and proudly. We will continue to be exactly who we are and educate those around us. I told them now is not the time to cave and lose ourselves in what is "normal." We will not put Christmas lights on our home, we will not celebrate Easter with egg hunts, and we will not pretend to be something we are not. We are Jewish. We are proud Jews. We will respect other religions and their traditions and pray the respect is returned.
We will continue to miss school for Jewish holidays. We will continue to educate the school district when the Jewish holidays are so school events are not scheduled on those days. We will continue to host holidays in our home and let the Shabbat candles shine light into a world that has become so dark. We will continue to invite our Jewish brothers and sisters and our non Jewish brothers and sisters to our home. We will continue to let the smell of latkes and brisket and matzah ball soup seep through our windows. We will continue to speak Yiddish words. We will continue to miss athletic games and practices during our holidays. We will continue to be Jewish.
We will be Jewish. We will be proud Jews. We will speak our truth, practice our religion, and do it with all the chutzpah G-d gave us because we will not fall. We will not quit. We will not die.
Judaism teaches acceptance. Judaism teaches you to love thy neighbor. Today and every day, I remind my daughters to make good choices. I pray the rest of the world begins to make good choices.
Thank you to my friends that changed their Facebook profile picture to stand with us. Thank you to the friends that texted me to see if we were okay. Thank you to my friends who said they were disgusted. We, too, are disgusted.
We are Jewish. We will prevail.