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The worst part

On the many terrible directions her thoughts take during an innocuous Starbucks encounter

The worst part is that when, minutes after I read the news about the latest terrorist attack, a Muslim woman came into the Starbucks where I’d been trying to work, I immediately began wondering where her sympathies might lie and imagining whether her modest dress could be hiding a knife, and what would happen if she suddenly ran over to stab me.

No, the worst part is that three people are dead for absolutely no reason.

The worst part is that her kids were with her, and I didn’t know if that would be enough to stop her, if she were indeed the sort to randomly want to kill me in a Starbucks.

No, the worst part is that a 19-year-old was taught there was a reason to randomly kill random Jews, and posted on Facebook about it, and did it.

The worst part is that I heard her chatting with a barista as she picked up her drink at the bar, and even as I observed this evidence of her normalcy and probable basic goodness, I still couldn’t be sure what she would think if a 19-year-old decided to stab me because the Israeli government was compelled to install metal detectors at the Temple Mount, or whether she might even want to do it herself.

No, the worst part is that a woman who is a mother and a grandmother was wounded, and had to be informed, as she came out of surgery, that her husband and two of her children were gone.

The worst part is that I wanted to catch her eye, or her children’s eyes, and smile, to show that I certainly don’t wish them dead, that I’m a nice human being who doesn’t deserve this pain, that my brothers and sisters living in Israel are also nice human beings who don’t deserve this pain — but I couldn’t, because they weren’t looking at me, because I felt a little creepy trying too hard to smile at a stranger’s kids, because I wasn’t sure I could make the smile real anyway, in that moment of pain.

No, the worst part is that his five children had to hide in the other room and listen in fear, and he can never comfort them again.

The worst part is that she and I probably have so much in common, in so many ways; if she weren’t just an unknown pair of eyes in a Starbucks, maybe we could be friends.

No, the worst part is that they were celebrating a birth, and now have to mourn three deaths.

The worst part is that there’s no way to know, and the more this happens, the more we fear and suspect and wonder who to trust or how we can ever talk to each other and determine that we don’t want each other dead, that we’re all nice human beings who don’t deserve this pain.

No, the worst part is that he knocked and they let him in — and the next time someone knocks, we will have learned not to open the door.

About the Author
Sarah Rudolph is a Jewish educator, a freelance writer and editor, and the director of She has been sharing her passion for Jewish texts of all kinds for over 15 years, with students of all ages. Sarah's essays have been published in a variety of internet and print media, including Times of Israel, Kveller, Jewish Action, OU Life, Lehrhaus, Tradition, and more, and she serves as Editor-At-Large, Deracheha: Sarah lives in Ohio with her husband and four children, but is privileged to learn online with students all over the world through and
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