The first words of the article you are about to read were penned as a poem that I wrote over three months ago. I wrote because I had felt silenced into fear by the war. I wrote because that was the action I could take; it was the action that was comfortable for me as I viewed, read about, listened to and absorbed, with intense discomfort, the details of the attack on Israel by Hamas on October 7, 2023.
It was an uncomfortable silence I experienced, unlike the soundless sitting wrapped in a winter blanket with a cup of hot cocoa. This silence was my struggle to comprehend what had taken place and what I should do, could do, would do in response.
So, I stepped away from my poem, then began again with small steps, but again, nothing to put on paper. Then a nudge followed by a rush to complete the poem arose from a conversation in Salon 360 during an online event held every few months under the guidance of Bizcatalyst 360, Dennis Pitocco and his team.
Since then, as part of a social media campaign, I have posted a picture of myself online with a “Kidnapped” sign and I have been wearing a blue square pin. During Hanukkah, I attended public menorah lightings, and I have added hashtags to posts.
Still, I have felt that in my neck of the woods, there is more to do. I penned a poem to express my uncomfortableness with my own silence. I made a commitment to bring people together in public spaces. I put my money and time where my mouth is and established a non-profit project, The Hope’s Compass Fund, to raise money to connect people with information and each other. These are my pathways to bring some peaceful, proactive moments into lives.
Since October 7, we have all been bombarded by email blasts, social media posts, news alerts and telephone calls. Yes, I can turn off my devices, block people, delete posts, turn off the news and not read the newspaper, as can you.
Yes, I can hide. However, I will not, because, as an educator (and a member of the Hadassah Educators Council) – as someone trained as a teacher, a guide for others, and as an individual — I choose not to hide. I hope I never need to hide. (May the memories of those who had to hide and did not survive, and those who hid and survived, be for a blessing and serve as a reminder for “Never Forget” and “Never Again!”)
We are living at a time when those four words are particularly filled with meaning. Already, historians and journalists are writing that we have forgotten, and “it” is happening again. What is the unmentionable “it?”
Let us mention it: the fear of being a target, being noticed, being brought in for questioning, of just being – that is the fear that was reignited on October 7. That fear grabbed me and catapulted me into silence.
Out of that silence has emerged the energy to create a series of programs that I will facilitate between March and October 2024. These programs, made possible by The Hope Compass Fund, will take place in local public spaces, including libraries, museums and arts centers. They will give you and me the chance to gather with survivors of the Holocaust and other genocides and with children of survivors, friends, neighbors and visitors, to listen to the voices of survivors, have opportunities to ask questions and to use arts and writing materials to share our reflections.
I invite you to become part of Hope’s Compass Project. You may join in person, as a virtual participant and/or as a donor. To explore more, go to the Survivors/Community Project tab at www.HopesCompass.org.
I remember my son’s bar mitzvah, which took place a few months before the 10th anniversary of 9/11. I remember his bar mitzvah project, which involved collecting dimes and dollars to purchase a National Remembrance Flag, a tribute to the lives lost on 9/11 and a means to raise funds for relief efforts. And I remember the prayer my son recited that day in his d’var Torah: “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall we experience war anymore.” Amen.
You may be afraid, hide your kippah and cover your head in a different way, or remove identifying magnets from your cars. You may use hashtags, speak up, attend rallies or stay home. You may send an email, bake a challah, hug someone a little tighter and send prayers, even as you alternately or simultaneously experience both hope and fear.
Whatever you do, know that you are not alone. Recently, I reached out to the communications coordinator at the local government center. My ask was to display 70 canvases of assorted sizes that were created during our October Dove-Daffodil-Dash event; that was the subject of a previous blog post. With little hesitation, after seeing a sampling of the canvases, the answer was a yes along with “how soon can you deliver them to me?” You and I are not alone; there are people who will see these canvases, who will look and feel something. We can share an emotional space, as we are doing here, through my poetry, “Flicker of Hope” and “Silence Then Hope.”
Dr. Hope Blecher is a member of the Hadassah Educators Council.