It’s Personal

For the last week, I’ve started and re-started this post so many times. I don’t want to stay quiet in the midst of so much strife and misinformation being disseminated. I’ve been in awe of accounts like @mayahoodblog @pharmieinthecity @therealhadassa and @jessicawaks among others, for their ability to share in an informed manner, with so much respect and humility. There are a million things I want to say, but then I scroll through and see images that have kept me up at night, and the hostility and volatility in the comment sections, and I’ll admit that I’m deterred. I see acquaintances sharing memes across social media that are performative at best and at worst, unknowingly inciting hate and violence beyond the relative safety of a digital screen and out into the actual street. You won’t find memes or infographics on my pages, for no other reason than I refuse to start a conversation that is so absolutely complex without feeling confident in my knowledge of the history and situation. I’m not informed enough to engage in a meaningful and productive conversation, so I won’t initiate it through re-posting anything when emotions are so high. I’m educating myself and am in no place to educate. I am doing what I can to learn about the situation, beyond social media and emotionally-loaded headlines, and continuing to daven, strengthen my emunah, and take upon myself to watch what I do and how I speak. I can’t control what others think of me, but I can control how I carry myself.

I’m about to share something that I’ve never spoken publicly about before. In the past I’ve considered speaking about it around Shavuos or my Hebrew birthday, but in the end I always let that pass by without saying much. Given what’s happening in the world today, it feels like a pretty awful time to reveal this side of myself and my history, but for the first time I also feel that it’s important to.

I am a giyores.

Thirteen years ago, I started on a journey that was at times inspiring and filled with hope and, at other times, depleting and more difficult than I could have ever anticipated. I was the recipient of selfless generosity and the warmest hospitality and I also witnessed animosity and was antagonized. At the end of the day (truthfully, many years into the process) I learned it had nothing to do with anyone else. If Hashem willed it, if He put me where I was, gave me the strength for years to do my hishtadlus, then it didn’t matter what was happening around me, as long as I kept firm to what I was doing and continued to do my best.

Even after I had completed the process, it hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows. I’ve struggled with my faith through my children’s diagnoses, watching them struggle, after emergency ambulance rides, sitting in surgical waiting rooms, and through high-risk pregnancies. I’ve struggled and worked and fought and cried and have grown in ways that continue to shape the Jewish woman I am today. By no means has it been a seamless or easy path, not from the day I made my decision to today when I opened my siddur, What it has always, always been though, is worth it.

The world is terrifying right now, but I also wonder how so for the friends I grew up with or my own family? I have no personal, generational link to the holocaust. In high school, it was a part of the curriculum and we spent a year delving into it. I remember having nightmares after watching the videos and hearing the accounts of survivors. I remember being so deeply affected by it all. I also remember feeling separated from it. That it didn’t happen to me, or my family, or the generations in our family tree before us.

My husband is the grandson of survivors. I had the privilege of hearing their story first-hand during a seder meal eight years ago. It was beyond anything I had learned in my classrooms or anything I had read or seen. There were no images, just words and a recounting so chilling and filled with emotion, that it was beyond anything I had experienced before.

The response is always, “never again,” but if you’ve looked through the posts and reports shared over the last week, that’s becoming a lot harder to believe. As a visible, Jewish woman, married to Jewish man, raising three Jewish kids, I’m scared in a way that I’ve been privileged not to be before.

I may not be posting and speaking out online, but within the walls of our home, difficult and important conversations are taking place, between my husband and I, and with our children at a level that is appropriate for them. I may not be posting infographics, but I am learning. I may not be storying and speaking out, but we are doing our best to raise informed children, equally strong in their love and practice of yiddishkeit, and who value and live the concept of, Veahavta l’rayacha kamocha – love your neighbor as yourself, regardless of their abilities, diagnoses, citizenship, ethnicity etc. In a world that feels like it’s in free fall, doing our very best every day and keeping this one line in mind may not be everything, but it’s a good start.

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