Six months to the day. Six months to the day after 11 Jews were murdered in the Tree of Life Synagogue on Shabbat.
I tell my husband that being away from news and off social media on Shabbat is a gift I give myself (that I wish everyone else in our family would give themselves too, but I can’t force it). He shattered that gift by telling me, before sundown, of the shootings in California. I don’t blame him. But I had already cried once that day, wept really. And that was when I was at services in our synagogue, just hours earlier.
The last day of Passover is also when Jews attend Yizkor services, in remembrance of loved ones who have passed away. We do this — four times per year — in addition to reciting Kaddish (the Jewish prayer for the dead) on the yahrzeit (lit. “year time” but more conventionally the anniversary on the Hebrew calendar) of our love one’s passing.
So I was in synagogue yesterday with my husband, my older sister, and her husband, praying, singing, and recalling our loved ones. For me and my sister, that was our father, Jakob Mogilnik z”l. The sanctuary was full. There was also a bat mitzvah that morning, a celebration of a young Jewish girl’s transition to adulthood in our community.
I remember turning around briefly at one point to see the crowd and thinking, “What would happen if a shooter came in?” I’m not trying to be dramatic here, or show my psychic powers. I do get intuitions about things, but this is a particular question I wonder about pretty often, because whenever you enter a Jewish institution — in New York City, of all places — you pass security. Because you have to. Because I am a target. Because so are my children, my husband, my mother, my sisters, babies in strollers, the elderly with walkers, widows, widowers, high school friends, moms out with their friends, guys heading into a YMHA to shoot hoops. Every single Jew is a target. Pretty much everywhere in the world. That’s just a fact. As two men told my sister and me years ago when they overheard us talking about our father’s concern about an upcoming trip we were planning to Israel, “Tell your father that when he brought you into the world as Jews, he put you in harm’s way.”
So the shooting at the Chabad Center in Poway, California is one in a very, very long line of hateful, murderous acts against Jews. It was committed by one in a long line of white supremacist haters of Jews. A very long line. And the fact that the most recent shooting — and murder that resulted — occurred on the last day of Passover, our celebration of our liberation from slavery — and on the day when we honor our dead — is a bit of ironic cruelty that I cannot quite wrap my head around.
I won’t bother with any political comments on this. It doesn’t matter. The people who need to care don’t, and most others are just on the sidelines, wringing their hands. That guarantees more of this. KNOW that. It just does.
And remember the name of LORI KAYE, z”l. Sixty years old. It is said that she jumped between the shooter and the rabbi, to save the rabbi’s life. Heaven doesn’t deserve her. Nor do we. None of us. Not here in the United States of American-made hatred. Or anywhere.