11 Things to do after the Tree of Life Synagogue Shooting

synagogue

This is a photo of my place of worship. There is a sanctuary under that dome, and it's where I became a Jew by choice, where I married my best friend, where my community witnessed me becoming Bat mitzvah earlier this year. It is a sacred, holy place to me, a place and community I cherish deeply. Whenever I walk through the metal detectors, and past the security guards, and into the historic courtyard, I know I’ve arrived home.

The thought of a gunman opening fire on us while we are at our most vulnerable, in prayer, terrifies me and breaks my heart into a million pieces to even fathom. I have been at a complete loss for words since the weekend. To be honest, though I am proud and feel called to be a leader, I’ve been grieving silently at home. Which is the opposite of what I learned in my Judaism 101 class. We are commanded to grieve publicly, and in community. I will be the first to say that keeping our end of the bargain while living in a modern world can be hard to do. I know this well. I wasn’t able to make it to a vigil this weekend due to prior commitments. But I heard that thousands of people showed up at our temple, including many people from interfaith communities, to stand in solidarity with us.

bat_mitzvah.png

at my bat mitzvah earlier this year…

My heart aches for the Jewish community of Pittsburgh, and I pray that they find comfort and solace in the outpouring of love from the larger Jewish community and interfaith community this week. Whether you are LGBTQ+, Asian, Native American, Muslim, black, brown, Jewish, an immigrant, or a woman, you have been marginalized in this country before. In Jewish faith, when someone dies, we say, “may their memory be a blessing.” May we recommit to working together, along with our white allies and accomplices, to ensure that their memories truly are a blessing. Because the truth is, it was bad way before this for many of us.

I recently listened to a podcast with civil rights activist DeRay Mckesson. In it, he described the difference between ally and accomplice. He says, “allies love you from a distance, and accomplices love you up close,” like in real life- not just on social media. This is in no way a judgment to allies. I myself am an ally sometimes. We need both accomplices and allies. DeRay gives the example of protests, where white people would stand in front of all the people of color because they knew the police would never harm them. Accomplices walk into the risk- they march in protests and go to city council meetings. They show up. We need to show up for each other right now.

 Our wedding day in the same synagogue

Our wedding day in the same synagogue

Here are some suggestions of actions and opportunities to take in the coming weeks to be an ally and an accomplice, so we can hold each other up during this frightening time in our history:

  1. First, remember that big movements start small. DeRay started his career as an activist by making peanut butter sandwiches in Ferguson.

  2. Learn about our history and each other. We cannot heal before we become aware of what actually happened and what needs healing. This is something EVERYONE can do. Some of my favorite podcasts are: Code Switch, The Nod, Pod Save the People, Mashup Americans, and the Tessaku podcast. Read Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson and The Other Side of Freedom by DeRay Mckesson. Visit the Equal Justice Initiative memorial and museum in Montgomery, AL. Visit the holocaust museums and Japanese American museums. Learn about Native American history. Read these tips from GLAAD for transgender allies. Take my Japantown social justice tour- I made it for this specific purpose for us.

  3. Support businesses owned by people of color like B Yellowtail, a native woman-owned fashion line, or Diaspora Co., a queer, woman of color-owned spice business. Watch our shows on Netflix, movies, and listen check out our music. This is how we can begin to shift the culture.

  4. Let’s use our privilege and platforms to amplify the voices of people of marginalized communities. I recognize that I am both privileged and marginalized, so many of us have platforms these days.

  5. Donate to support the immediate needs of the Tree of Life victims in Pittsburg, and/or to a Jewish organization like HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), which the shooter posted hateful language about on his last social media post before the shooting. Originally founded for Jewish refugees, HIAS now protects and provides assistance to refugees around the world.

  6. Wear your support for gun control. Did you know that after Sandy Hook in 2012, more than 400 people have been shot in over 200 school shootings? Everyday, 90 Americans are killed by guns. “Everytown is a movement of Americans working together to end gun violence and build safer communities. Everytown starts with you, and it starts in your town.” Donate to Everytown here.

  7. Let’s be accomplices for each other. Show up for us at protests, at rallies and at the polls on election day. We can hold our elected officials accountable by voting. I know it can sometimes feel as if your vote doesn’t make a difference, but it does to us. I know it’s crunch time, but if you need some guidance DM or email me. I can send you the guides I’ve found helpful, to make the process a little easier for you, too.

  8. Remember their names, pray for their families, and if you are Jewish, say kaddish for them:

    Joyce Fienberg
    Richard Gottfried
    Rose Mallinger
    Jerry Rabinowitz
    Cecil Rosenthal
    David Rosenthal
    Bernice Simon
    Sylvan Simon
    Daniel Stein
    Melvin Wax
    Irving Younger

    Maurice Stallard (whose life was also cut short in Kentucky this weekend)

    Vicky Lee Jones (whose life was also cut short in Kentucky this weekend)

  9. Be kind and reach out to people, even if their political, religious, etc. views are different than yours. We have much more in common than we realize. If someone you know and love is from a marginalized community who might be hurting, simply reach out to tell them they have your support or acknowledge it if something terrible in their community has happened. This seems so simple, but a few friends and family have done this for me this week, and it spoke volumes and really meant the world to me.

  10. You may not agree with everything in this post, and that’s okay. I know many of our issues are nuanced, but right now is the time to band together and get down to the core of things. Because we are stronger together if we don’t let our differences divide us.

  11. Can you do me a favor? I am always looking for ways to learn more and do more. Do you have any recommendations that weren’t listed here? Please post them in the comments below for me and others to dive into.

 Monuments at the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, AL.

Monuments at the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, AL.

I know times are scary now. But remember that it’s always darkest before the dawn. We are exactly where we need to be as a collective. We are in this dark, dark time to heal our past traumas. During dark times of uncertainty, it is most important that we keep holding the vision that Dr. King once had for our world. The more people hold the vision, the more likely it will be to manifest. This basic law has been written in all the religious and spiritual texts from the beginning of time and it is the one thing I feel certain of right now. Sending you light, love, hope and boundless amounts of energy to keep going. We will get there together- I am certain. THANK YOU for your support, prayers and solidarity.

P.S. Check out this awesome guide to action I made after our racial justice Passover dinner earlier this year!

P.P.S. If you’re interested in visiting the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, AL. I wrote a post with my reflections on my recent trip, as well as a guide to the city of Montgomery.