I didn’t want to write about the shooting in Pittsburgh.
I didn’t want to think any more than I already had about the tragedy that took eleven lives, put six more in the hospital and terrorized a community and a people.
I didn’t want to write about the fact that the Tree of Life Congregation, the synagogue that the gunman chose as the site to act out his toxic anti-Semitic views, was hosting a brit milah, a ritual circumcision, as part of the regular Shabbat morning service that day. I didn’t want to write about the thought of brand new parents having to shield their brand new infant son from shots from a machine gun. I didn’t want to write that a celebration of life was interrupted by a man whose sole purpose in that moment was to perpetuate death.
I didn’t want to write about the fact that I had been in synagogue that morning, as well. That the services on any Shabbat are usually a time for the Jewish community to come together to pray and enjoy each other’s company. That the services on that particular Shabbat at my synagogue included a celebration of a wedding scheduled for the next day, another ceremony that focuses on beginnings rather than endings.
I didn’t want to write I had been leading junior congregation services that morning for a group of children in third, fourth and fifth grades. That if this gunman had been working as part of a larger group that also attacked my synagogue, as opposed to carrying out his personal brand of misguided and terrible justice on his own, those children and I would have been in the same type of danger as the congregants in Pittsburgh. I didn’t want to write about the fact that, because of the building’s design, I probably wouldn’t have had any chance to protect the children with me because I wouldn’t have known about the shooter until it was too late.
I didn’t want to write about the “What if…?” questions that immediately ran through my head when I got home after services and heard about the shooting. What if an attack had occurred at my synagogue? What if my son had been with me, as he often is? What if my wife and daughter had been in the synagogue too? What if something similar were to happen the next morning while my son and I were back at the synagogue for religious school?
I didn’t want to write about the conversation that Trudy and I had with Eitan about the shooting. That we had to explain to our six year old son why we were so upset about the images we had seen on television. That people had died because of the views of one man. That there are people who hate us and who would prefer that we didn’t exist, simply because of our religion. That the synagogue is not necessarily the safe space that we would have had him believe.
I didn’t want to write about religious school the following morning. I didn’t want to write about the added police presence outside the synagogue, or how I thanked the officers for being there, or how my mother-in-law began crying when we walked by them. I didn’t want to write about the changes in dismissal practices to improve safety or the active shooter and lock-down drills we conducted in our classes. I didn’t want to write that I had never participated in those types of drills before but that my students were so used to them that they asked me if they could take selfies on their phones while they were hiding under the table in the corner of the classroom.
I didn’t want to write about the conversations I had with my students about the shooting, about the continued prevalence of antisemitism in the United States and about the need for us to remain vigilant against all forms of prejudice.
I didn’t want to write that so many different shootings, terrorist attacks and other tragedies have taken place during Eitan’s brief life that he seemed to understand exactly what had happened, aside from the reason why someone would do such a thing. I didn’t want to compare the shooting at the synagogue in Pittsburgh with the shooting at the schools in Parkland and Sandy Hook or the shooting at the music festival in Las Vegas or the shooting at the training center in San Bernardino or the shooting at the movie theater in Aurora. I didn’t want to think about the fact that those six different shootings were still just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the murders that have been perpetrated in our country over the last few years.
I didn’t want to write about the fact that I had already written about a terrorist attack that occurred on Shabbat. And I definitely didn’t want to write about the other recent incident of antisemitism in our country, in which young men carried tiki torches and chanted Nazi slogans as they marched through Charlottesville, Virginia.
I didn’t want to write about any of it… but I needed to.