5 Women About Being Jewish Right Now

On January 15, a gunman held four people hostage at Congregation Beth Israel, a Reformed synagogue in Colleyville, Texas. The hostages escaped, in large part because the cool Rabbi had undergone years of security training. Synagogues have long been aware of the threats, particularly since 2018, when a gunman killed 11 worshipers at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life congregation.

It’s a scary time: Anti-Semitic hate crimes in New York have increased nearly 50% since 2020, the state police agency said in December. One in four American Jews said they have experienced antisemitism in the past year, NPR reported in October 2021.

I wanted to check in and show solidarity with our Jewish readers. To create a dedicated space for discussion, I phoned five Jewish women—including an Orthodox mother of four in New Jersey; a Cup of Jo writer in LA; and the editor of a prominent Jewish news organization — on how they’re feeling these days. Here’s what they shared…

What is your emotional temperature now, after the Texas hostage crisis and the general surge in anti-Semitic activity?

“I’m so angry and frustrated. Many Jewish people have been trying to voice concerns about rising anti-Semitism for YEARS, and no one is taking us seriously. We grew up with Holocaust survivors and there was this belief that next time we will see it coming and we won’t let it happen – and now to watch the rise of antisemitism and feel powerless is really, really hard.” – Shoshana Batya Greenwald, who describes herself as an orthodox progressive feminist, educator and design historian

“Danger definitely feels closer than ever. Growing up, I didn’t know anyone who had experienced much anti-Semitism, aside from my fourth grade teacher, who had been earnestly asked, “Where are your horns?” by his college roommate. I knew something like this happened, but it wasn’t part of my own life at the time. But that has really changed.” — Leah Koenig, cookbook author, newsletter contributor, and CoJ contributor

What do you love about Judaism and being Jewish?

“The Shabbat ritual has become a grounding force over the past two years. I wake up happy on Friday morning knowing that at the end of the day I can start my challah for my family to eat. Making a challah takes many hours – the yeast, the rising, the many rises, the folding, the baking – and there can be no rush. And the process alone is a way to mark and respect the time. I feel like I’m reverting to an ancient ritual, worn for centuries by people who have been through far worse. Challah has also become an offering during the pandemic; I give it away to friends and neighbors, and it’s where I find joy in this time of isolation.” — Abigail Rasminsky, author, teacher, editor and CoJ contributor

“My favorite element of Judaism is the idea of ​​preparing and sharing meals. When we lived in Jerusalem, our friends had a Saturday lunch that was an open house. We went at least twice a month. Sometimes it was 10 people, sometimes 20, they didn’t care. They made a bunch of food and people brought stuff and we sat on the floor or whatever. Whenever anyone travels there, I bring people together with this lunch.” — Jodi Rudoren, Editor-in-Chief of The Forward, the Jewish independent news organization

Jewish friends have told me that they are nervous about going to church, or not thinking about buying apartments next to synagogues, etc. Is that kind of caution/fear affecting your life today?

“It breaks my heart that I never feel completely safe when attending synagogue services. I always think: Where are the exits? where are my kids what would i do It makes me emotional to talk about it.” — Leah King

“In late 2019, a poll was released with two shocking numbers: one in four American Jews said they were afraid to go to Jewish places/events, and nearly a third of American Jews were afraid to wear a yarmulke or Star of David or something that marked them as Jewish. I personally didn’t feel that way. I have a feeling you can be conscious, but go ahead and live your life.” — Jodi Rudoren

“Yes, I feel this fear. Visibly, Jewish people are being beaten in the streets. A boy was beaten up last year and he was the same age as my son on the same bus route. I’m also nervous about attending large gatherings; We had an anti-Semitism rally and I was really scared. I felt like a target when a Jewish group got together.” – Shoshana Greenwald

“Jewish preschools have tightened security over bomb threats – can you imagine dropping your toddler off at school with multiple guards armed? The odd thing for me, having grown up in a very Jewish area of ​​Michigan, I was never scared at all. Friends’ grandparents were Holocaust survivors, and when I was younger I thought, okay, we’re on the other side now! But Holocaust deniers seem to be more common now. When I saw the January 6 attack on the Capitol last year – with all the Nazi symbols and the “Auschwitz camp” sweatshirts – I was reminded of the rhetoric and violence of the Holocaust. The scariest thing for me is that these anti-Semitic attacks are increasing.” — Leah Fink, Coach and Founder of B’nai Brooklyn

“Shul is a place where I’m always aware of the danger. But it is a place where I go with my family, my friends and my community to pray and laugh and cry and chat and grieve and have coffee and just BE. I feel like if something happens in my synagogue, I know I’ll be with my family and friends and people I love.” — Abigail Rasminsky

What would you wish non-Jewish friends would do or say?

“After news like the Texas hostage crisis, it’s really nice when non-Jewish friends text and get in touch. And to see friends talking about it on social media feels supportive and affirming.” – Lea Fink

“I wish people would acknowledge it and not make us feel like we were crazy. Just to check on Jewish friends and say wow antisemitism is increasing dramatically. After the Pittsburgh shooting, the media talked about gun control and Trump, but nobody talked about anti-Semitism. That was the first time I saw it so clearly. Just use the word! Say the word anti-Semitism! Recognize what is happening! Our lives are in danger! Everyone should start with Dara Horn’s People Love Dead Jews; it is such important reading. – Shoshana Greenwald

Is there anything you hope or plan to move forward with?

“I started wearing a Star of David a year ago after an attack in upstate New York. As an act of solidarity, I wanted to be more visibly Jewish, so I put on this necklace. Sometimes when I’m out I see someone noticing and it’s such a good feeling. People get a layer of who I am. It feels like it’s the right thing to do.” — Leah King

“I have two children and my parenting philosophy is to encourage curiosity. Children are bombarded with a lot of information. We must encourage them not only to accept the often biased or inaccurate sources, nor to cover their heads and hide, but to ask what the other side is saying? What’s the nuance and context? Encouraging them to ask questions and then answering those questions openly is the most important thing we can do as parents.” — Jodi Rudoren

“We have four children – from 6 to 17 – and it is so important to us that they love to be Jewish. There was this notion among previous generations that it’s really hard to be Jewish, which is obviously still very true, but as a community we’ve realized that we have to focus on the positive and the pride of being Jewish within us children must instill. It was something I was consciously taught – if you have children, grow your Judaism into something positive. Our family has Shabbat every week. We completely divest ourselves of the technology; For 25 hours, from sunset on Friday to the stars appearing on Saturday, we don’t turn on the lights, we don’t cook, we don’t write, we don’t use the elevators. I could be stressed about a million things, but once I light the candles, I don’t anymore. We are able to distance myself from all these worldly concerns and we can eat and pray and nap and hang out and be with friends and family. I love being Jewish; it’s everything.” – Shoshana Greenwald

How are you feeling these days? I hope our Jewish readers are doing well; send love xo

PS raising race aware kids, and are you religious?

(Photo by Luciano Spinelli/Stocksy.)


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