Today, there is no question. Or, more realistically, we have all the questions, so how could I answer just one in the midst of this grief and sadness and fear?
To focus on, “How should I tell my kids what happened?” or, “Is it safe to go to synagogue?” or, “What should I say to my Jewish friends?” would be to minimize the immensity of what I am feeling right now and what I imagine you are feeling right now.
I have been asked all these questions and more, though, and I picture a question mark stretching into all future opportunities for joy, obscuring our path, infecting our resolve with self-doubt and fear. Even so, I know there are some concrete answers that will emerge. I know we will discover new paths, and there will be good people along the way. We won’t feel like this forever.
By the time this is posted, 48 hours will have passed since the horrific murderous rampage inside Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. Thousands of response pieces will have been written, hundreds of vigils will have been held in Jewish communities across the country, including dozens right here in Philadelphia. I’m not telling you anything new, but I am telling you now.
You are not alone. I don’t care that it’s a cliche. You are not alone. If you need someone to talk to and don’t know where to turn, email me, and I’ll make sure you have someone. (Seriously. If you don’t otherwise know how to reach me, email@example.com with “for Miriam” in the subject line will get to me.)
The Jewish community, however you define it, is stronger than any act or acts of hatred. This is terrible, terrible, but it will not define or destroy us.
Your Jewish friends need you. Please don’t be afraid to reach out just because you don’t know what to say. Try, “Thinking of you,” or, “Here if you need me.” To all of my non-Jewish friends who have done this for me, thank you.
Vote. On Nov. 6, and every chance you have moving forward, vote. Vote for the 11 people who died and won’t be able to. Vote for everyone who has ever struggled for respect and recognition. Vote for the disenfranchised and in protest of voter suppression. Vote for everyone in your past who had fewer rights than you do. Vote. Vote. Vote. There’s honestly no excuse. Mark your calendar. Get to the polls.
Find pride and joy in who you are, and share it. Maybe this one has to wait until some of the shock and grief has subsided, but don’t wait too long. On Saturday night in Rittenhouse Square, I cried my eyes out, but I also sang my heart out, surrounded by my loving people. Find that moment. Cling to it; share it.
My dear readers, my friends, Philadelphia, my beloved Jewish community, Pittsburgh, if this makes it to you: You are not alone. This will not define us. We won’t feel like this forever. We need each other now more than ever, across lines and barriers. Show up, participate, vote. Take care of yourselves and each other.