As someone who hopes to work in the Jewish nonprofit world after graduation, my physical safety should not be of concern when it comes to my (potential) future job. My field of choice should not be a dangerous one. And yet, increasingly, it is.
As of publishing this post, there have been five waves of bomb threats to Jewish Community Centers across the US since the beginning of the year, as well as other acts of anti-Semitism affecting our communities. The first one happened while I was on vacation abroad; my boyfriend, who had worked at our local JCC until just weeks prior to the first wave of threats, messaged me to tell me what had happened and that he and all our friends are okay. In addition to the JCC providing me with a Jewish community where I am living now, the local JCC where I grew up was one of several evacuated centers in the first wave of bomb threats – the building where I went to weekly BBYO meetings, across the street from my weekly Israeli dance rehearsals, the area that had instilled in me my love for all things Jewish was threatened because of what it stands for.
I was frightened, I was angry, and I was in shock.
And it has happened four more times since the first wave of attacks. Three of the five times, my current local JCC was one of the many community centers that had to be evacuated. Thankfully, all of my friends who worked or currently work there are okay. However, my mind constantly oscillates between gratefulness that my boyfriend no longer works there, fear for those I know that still do, and sadness that these thoughts even cross my mind. The lump in my throat returns each time, and I cry for the larger meanings behind each evacuation. Because my community is in danger; people I love, doing the work they love and the work I hope with all my heart that I have the opportunity to do in the future, are being threatened.
I am frightened, I am angry, but I am strong.
I teach Hebrew School at a local synagogue. My 6-year-old kids ask me regularly whether we are going to have a lockdown drill, because they are scared that should an emergency situation occur they will not know what to do. I assure them that everything will be fine, that nothing will happen to them and that they have no reason to worry. But they are six, and they are fearing for their physical wellbeing. They are smart and I love each of them with all my heart; I do not want them to be afraid. They shouldn’t have to worry about things like bomb threats, and yet they do. Each time centers of Jewish learning, experience, and culture are threatened or attacked, I think of my students and pray that the day will come when they no longer have to worry about their safety because of their religion.
I am frightened, but I am strong and I am brave.
When I was a sophomore in college, I reconnected with an old Hebrew School teacher of mine. When I said I want to work in the Jewish nonprofit world, he told me that means two things: working with and for the Jewish community. It was at that moment that I knew that Jewish nonprofit work is, at least for now, the right choice for me. Never before did it even cross my mind that my physical safety was of concern – until now. These recurring bomb threats have wounded our communities psychologically and emotionally, though thankfully everyone is physically okay. I pray that we stay safe, that our wounds heal, and that my students are no longer afraid. I pray that our communities grow stronger and that we do not let this divide us, that instead of isolating us we grow closer to other religious and cultural communities. Above all, I pray that the hatred responsible for these attacks ceases to exist; that our common humanity remains stronger than whatever superficial differences separates us; that religion does not become a source of fear but rather one of strength, pride, and joy.
I am strong, I am brave, and I am proud to be a Jew.