Tree of Life Massacre

Going to services should be about connecting with those around you, and yet that simple right was taken away for many this Saturday. While it is easy to look around and point fingers, we must first think about this and grieve. Grieve for not only those who have lost their lives this weekend, but who have lost their lives simply trying to observe their respective religions.

Looking on this shooting, I can not help but think back to my time in Israel on birthright, and how that shaped how I view Judaism today. For a long period of time, I had struggled with reconciling my atheist beliefs with what was said in prayer, and I felt myself growing ever-distant to a community I once called my own. However, in Israel I learned that regardless of my level of religious observance, Judaism is a community I can always be apart of. This made me and still makes me incredibly proud of my Jewish identity, as I practice a religion that understands the importance of diversity of thought, and embraces it for the better.

After that realization, I have begun to realize what Judaism means to me, and how that can differ from others. While my belief in God is still lacking, I look to Judaism as a community, and one that I can share with so many others. Everyone, regardless of religious observance is apart of that community, and we all owe to each other the love and respect we deserve. For me, this is not just another mass shooting, these are family members and loved ones that I share a deep connection with.

There are those out there who would rather see Jewish people not live because of what religion they choose to practice, rather than who they are as a person.While there are many factors that may have contributed to this man choosing to act in such a manner, there is much that all of us can learn from Saturday’s events. It is easy to react with anger and contempt, whether that be toward the man who committed the atrocity or toward those in power. What I ask of you is to choose compassion instead. Think of someone you love, and let them know that you are here. Let others know, that you will not succumb to the hate and fear that surrounds us, rather you will unite in love, acceptance and understanding. If Judaism has taught me anything, it has shown me that love is and has always been more powerful than hate and fear, and that all of us are capable of forgiveness and acceptance. This man chose to act and prey on our anger and fear, and we must not let him win. We must show that in the face of anger, hate, and contempt, we are capable of more.