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This Is Why My Family Won’t Go to Synagogue in Solidarity

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Like everyone else, I have been grappling with how to process the events of Pittsburgh — both for myself and for my children, ages 6 and 19 months.

A friend asked me the other day, “how are you doing?” To be honest, I didn’t know how to answer: I felt like I had not processed any of it, because my primary effort has been to shelter my children, and therefore I was also sheltering myself a little. In trying to protect them, I bottled in my emotions.

I recognize that may not be healthy for me, but it also means my children have not seen me anxious, upset, or angry. To them, they just see mom.

For my children, this was a joyous week of Halloween costumes and candy — and I am OK with that. They are kids, and they should see the joy in the world. They should see neighbors greeting each other on the street and smiling faces opening their doors.

Earlier this week, I felt secure in my instinct to shield and protect them. Now, however, as Shabbat nears, and so many Jews are uniting for Solidarity Shabbat (and similar initiatives, like #ShowUpForShabbat), I found myself wondering: Should we go as a family?

I very much want to be in that sanctuary tonight, standing sharing in this very important moment in our community. However, attending temple with my family also means exposing my daughter to what happened, and the questions that surround it. I have worked hard this week to protect her, but does my need to be a part of community outweigh her need for innocence — or, at least, my need to maintain her innocence?

I have read numerous articles about how to talk to your children about anti-Semitism as well as such tragedies. I’ve heard quite a bit about how important it is to have these conversations now, to be open and honest about the world.

But each time I feel motivated to sit down and share this with her, I am left with the question, “Is this really right for my child?”. My daughter, a first grader in public school, has a strong Jewish identity — she’ll stand up in front of class in order to share the Purim story with them, and she’ll write stories about how she waits and waits for Shabbat each week.

I am proud of her, I don’t have the heart to crush that, or to give her any inkling that someone may hate her just because she is being who she is. Perhaps that’s naïve of me — yes, she’ll find out one day about all the hate there is in this world. But first, I want to let her really develop her sense of self-worth, her pride in who she is. I want her to never think twice about wearing her Jewish star leggings, or singing the Shema as a song in a talent show.

On a typical Friday evening, going to Shabbat services is a joy for her. How can I bring her this Friday, knowing that she will see that anxiety, anger, and sadness that we adults are all feeling this week? Isn’t that the struggle of motherhood – balancing your own emotional needs while protecting your child?

So instead of joining our synagogue’s community on tonight, I am thinking we will make this Shabbat about family. We will stay home, light candles, bless the challah and wine, and spend an extra moment blessing our children.

Tonight, we will celebrate our Judaism as a family. For the kids, that’s what we do every Shabbat — but this night will be different, and I’ll feel comforted in knowing that, in maintaining our tradition, we will also be connecting with something much larger than ourselves. It may not be “showing up for Shabbat,” but it will be a Shabbat in solidarity.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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