Why My Family Didn’t Go to Synagogue for Solidarity Shabbat

Why My Family Didn’t Go to Synagogue for Solidarity Shabbat photo

This is a modified version of a story that originally ran on Kveller.

Like everyone else, I have been grappling with how to process the events of Pittsburgh -- both for myself, in my own head, 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, last week 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.

Following the shooting, I felt secure in my instinct to shield and protect them. But as the week went on and Shabbat drew near, I found myself wondering: Should we go as a family?

I very much wanted to be in that sanctuary on Friday night, sharing in this very important moment in our community. However, attending temple with my family also meant exposing my daughter to what happened, and the questions that surround it. I have worked hard 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 felt motivated to sit down and share this with her, I was left with the gut feeling "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 could I have brought her this past 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 Friday night, we stayed home. My toddler sang "Shabbat Shalom" on his toy guitar, we braided challah, we said the blessings and we shared our ups and downs of the week. It was a normal Shabbat and yet it was so much more.

I shared with my daughter that this Friday night Jews across the country were celebrating community, she asked "why?" and I answered with a simple "because it's important to celebrate who we are and stand united in what we believe", she smiled proudly and was satisfied. To me, that's showing up for Shabbat -- and we will do it again this week.

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