A Jew in the Diaspora

I apologize often.

My arsenal is made up of sorrys, nuance, empathy. Of “all children deserve to feel safe.” Of “there are people who commit atrocities on both sides.”

And for the first time, I’ve truly understood God’s punishment of Shaul when he fails to wipe out Amalek — for sparing its king, for the glimmers of empathy that ultimately endanger the people we love.

Being a Jew in the Diaspora is growing thicker skin: I won’t give these people a second chance to hurt me. 

I hold my one-year-old tightly at night and my mind touches the images I’ve been pushing away the whole day, of the savagery, the brutality and remorselessness required to remove the head of a squirming baby. 

My warm, soft baby; I breathe her in. I am haunted.


Being a Jew in the Diaspora is knowing only geography — only 5000 miles — a coincidence of her birthplace — separates my daughter from the threat of violence called “justice.”

Over there they fight with guns and tanks, with feet and hands that do not stop moving. We watch on our phones and on our screens, we read editorials and think-pieces, we input our credit card information as each cause comes up. 

They fight a war, everything disrupted. We fight ourselves: how can we act like nothing has changed?

Being a Jew in the Diaspora is walking around ashen-faced, as a mourner, broken, the scent of sorrow clinging to my skin as frantically as the belief that I have no right to be.

And there are stories of great generosity and offers of help, gracious. Each place I look I find more people looking for an opportunity to hold others up. Chartered flights leaving from several cities: bags of clothing, bulletproof vests, scopes, toys, letters. May they be overwhelmed with our offerings. May these offerings be used, wholly and completely; may they be drained as fuel, as reserves.

May we keep finding that we have offerings to give. 

May we keep making offerings.

Being a Jew in the Diaspora is waking up and falling asleep to the thought of our brothers and sisters. It is bated breath, an ache, fear, shame, righteous anger, grief branded on skin, a burning, a reckoning, hope, love, a prayer, open hands, clasped ones.

Being a Jew in the Diaspora.

Being a Jew.

I hurt all over, and I thank God.

About the Author
Ruthie was born in Germany, grew up in Michigan, and has been in the NYC-tristate area for the last seven years. As the Director of the Orthodox Union's Executive Fellowship, Ruthie recruits and provides leadership training for young Jewish professionals interested in service and advocacy. She also works as the Youth Director of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun, where she engages with children of all ages, developing and organizing thoughtful and innovative curricula and events. Ruthie lives on the Upper East Side with her husband Max (a semicha student at RIETS), their dog Momo (a high-strung pup), and their daughter Mila (a high-energy baby).
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