I remember my second reaction when JFK was assassinated. It was shared by most Jews throughout the world. My first was, of course, total and complete shut down of my ability to think and function, in a state of incredulity. I was a big fan of the president. I used to listen to his press conferences. I still believe that he was the most charming and witty president, certainly of my lifetime. How this could have happened was truly inconceivable. That was my first reaction.
My second was, naturally, I hope and pray the assassin was not a Jew. I think all of us born Jews felt that way. Not that we were threatened or that we thought pogroms would come to New Jersey, and elsewhere, if the killer had been a Jew,.It was just a gut reaction. It’s probably genetic. I love and welcome converts, but I doubt they suffer from this pervasive Jewish paranoia. I’ll have to ask my rabbi who is one of the best Jews I know, a born Christian.
So, today, a couple of hours before we leave for our local JCC to attend the Jewish Film Festival, I heard the beeps on the radio that announce a big bulletin. Not that I’m not accustomed to hearing those beeps often these days, but they always grab my attention. As did this one, announcing the arrest, in Jerusalem, of an 18-year-old Israeli-American accused of making the many bomb threats to JCCs across the US and elsewhere.
I, myself, am an Israeli-American, or an American-Israeli, take your pick. I know a lot of that particular breed and they usually share characteristics that I, at least, find admirable. They’re proud Jews. They’re willing to send their sons and daughters to fight in a very active and often dangerous military. They often give up greater financial security and they’re the most idealistic people I know.
Not all of them. Just most of them.
So, today’s news was a kick in the stomach for me. How did this terrible travesty happen? It reminds me of Dr. Baruch Goldstein, who massacred innocent Arabs in a mosque. And some others who I shall not name. Jews so filled with hatred that the nature of being Jewish has been destroyed within their souls.
What was this boy/man thinking? Was this a foolish (stupid!) attempt to arouse sympathy for the Jews? Thankfully, we Jews do not need sympathy in America or in Israel!
Maybe he was really trying to harm the Jews because of some slight or notion that we’re not religious enough or that we’re too religious. Who knows? Who can see into the mind of such a disturbed person?
Should I feel compassion and love for him? Should we all? Do we say he’s sick and needs help? Let’s not condemn him before we understand him?
There will be many of our brethern who will feel compassion. Not me!
I will think of the children who were frightened and had to evacuate their nursery school classrooms. I will think of the senior citizens using the JCC pools who had to drag aching bones out of the water and quickly throw on a towel and escape into the frigid winter air. I will think of the parents who dropped off children who were appearing in a play, doubting their decision to carry on, wondering if they might be harming the children they cherished. I will think of Jewish America, fearing that our country was sprouting the seeds of anti-Semitism with a renewed vengeance. A topic of discussion wherever Jews congregated.
So, no. This old great-grandmother, who has seen many decades of insanity in this world, from the Holocaust to A-bombs to terrorism and vicious attacks against Israel, both in words and deeds, does not forgive so fast. Not so fast!
Yes. I hope this boy/man will get help. But right now I am in an unforgiving mood.
I’m off to the JCC.