Thoughts on Pittsburgh
I've been having trouble processing my feelings around the horrific events of this past Saturday. When I was younger, my mom told me a story that I wish were just a story. As a young boy, her father, my grandfather, was taken by a group of older kids and tied to a tree and they tried to light him on fire. Why? Because he was Jewish. Luckily, his sister, my great-aunt, found him and saved his life.
I remember hearing this story and wanting to cover my ears, throw up, and cry all at once. I comforted myself knowing that he had survived and we no longer lived in a country where something like this could happen. I am heartbroken for my naive child self. I am heartbroken for Pittsburgh. I am heartbroken for our country.
My initial reaction was sadness. Soon this a mix of anger and sadness and not long after, my thoughts went to Star of David necklaces. I have never worn a Star of David, or anything that would link me to my Jewish religion, though I suppose my brown, curly hair and other physical traits give me away, and right there is the issue. “Give me away.” For so many Jews, assimilation was not just desirable but necessary. I myself experienced a version of this growing up in a predominantly Christian community, attending an elementary and middle school that bordered a country club which did not allow Jews (among other groups), and to which many of my classmates and good friends belonged. I remember feeling so out of place when I arrived at my high school and was suddenly with so many people who were like me. Knowing what Rosh Hashana was and why school was closed? Reminiscing about Bar/Bat Mitzvahs? Where was I?! No, I didn’t go to a Jewish day school, I simply went to an NYC private school.
Since my high school days, I have found myself mostly amongst a more sizable Jewish population than the one I began my school days in. That said, because of my early experiences, I am used to, and even comfortable, being the only Jew in the room. Nevertheless, I have never wanted to go so far as wear a Star of David. I also do not have a mezuzah. Why? First, I have never defined myself by my religion and thus never wanted someone else to see those symbols before getting to know me and make any assumptions. Second, I fear for my safety. I’d like to think that going about my daily life wearing a Star of David wouldn’t cause a stir, but the truth is, it might elicit unwanted comments, or worse. I’d like to think that everyone in my building is loving and embracing of all faiths (not to mention genders, sexual orientations, races, etc.), but the truth is, that is simply me projecting myself onto my neighbors.
Last night I found myself wanting to purchase a Star of David piece of jewelry. I have not yet found a piece of jewelry I like enough to purchase and when I do, I can’t say for sure that I will wear it or feel comfortable wearing it in every situation.
I don’t have any wisdom to share; no recommended next steps. What I have is the desire to aid those suffering and in need, vote, and fight however I can so that if one day I have a child and share the story of my grandfather, my child can take comfort in knowing that such hatred no longer exists.