Every week, from sundown on Friday afternoon until the starts come out on Saturday night, observant Jews like myself enter a period of ignorant bliss in which we put our technology away, and enter a zone of uninterrupted serenity. We focus on strengthening our bonds with our family and community, and allow time for personal introspection, reflection, and renewal. Usually, after these magical 25 hours are up, one of the first things I do is check my phone. It is a very humbling experience, because 99 percent of the time, nothing happened while I was offline. The world continued unabated without me constantly monitoring its developments.
This past Saturday evening, however, was different. I was jolted back into reality when I saw that there was an ongoing hostage crisis in a synagogue near Dallas. I wish I could say I was shocked or surprised, but I wasn’t. Not after the Pittsburgh massacre and shooting in Poway. I was deeply saddened and scared for my fellow Jews who were in captivity, and I– along with thousands of other Jews of all backgrounds —immediately prayed for their well-being.
I then did some research. Apparently the terrorist was upset about the conviction of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani terrorist serving an 86 year prison sentence for trying to kill American officers in Afghanistan. Therefore, the gunman took out his rage on –you guessed it– the Jews– who had absolutely nothing to do with Siddiqui’s imprisonment.
I then thought about the scene in that synagogue, resembling a terrifying action movie–the kind that I am too scared to watch. I thought about the fear and dread experienced in those moments to the precious Jews being held hostage in a sacred place of worship. I thought about the families of the hostages. Then, when news came out about the hostages escaping, after saying prayers of gratitude, I thought about the long lasting trauma that the hostages will likely experience.
I then thought about how when I was a child growing up in the 90s, I could get into my synagogue without entering a code onto a key pad to get in. I thought about how the only time we ever considered having security guards was on the High Holidays.
I reflected how now I wouldn’t dare walk into a synagogue without a code, and without a heroic security guard risking his/her life to protect us.
And I think, it is 2022, they shouldn’t hate us anymore. They shouldn’t scapegoat us anymore. We are so modern, and civilized, how is this possible?
And then I realized in the year 1939, 1939 was also considered the most modern time in history until that point. The Germans were civilized and educated, and modern. Wasn’t anti-Semitism a thing of the past?
And lest we forget, every single year, during the seder, Jews throughout the millennia have said the exact same words, which were true 2000 years ago, 1000 years ago, 80 years ago, and today in the year 2022:
“For, not only one (nation) arose and tried to destroy us, rather in every generation they try to destroy us, and Hashem saves us from their hands.”
May G-d continue to save us from their hands. May we know no more sorrow. And may we speedily and quickly see our redemption, when we will finally, at long last be freed from the shackles of hatred that have haunted and tormented us for millennia.