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The Pogrom in Pittsburgh: Darkness in America, Light in a Synagogue

I went to synagogue last night... And then woke up to the news.

Men pray outside the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall before a service to honor and mourn the victims of Saturday's mass shooting at the Tree Of Life Synagogue on October 28, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Eleven people were killed and six more were wounded in the mass shooting that police say was fueled by antisemitism. (Photo: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

CD editor's note: A version of the following was first composed as a post to Facebook on Saturday, October 27, 2018, in the immediate wake of the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It has been slightly updated and edited for publication here today.

I went to synagogue last night.

Because it was Friday night, which meant it was Shabbat, which meant my 2-year-old son Ezra was juiced to go to what he calls the “puppet show with funny songs!”

Once a month on Friday nights, our local synagogue Kehilla here in Oakland holds a ‘Tot Shabbat’—a special sing-a-long service and potluck for toddlers like Ezra and parents like me who are happy for any activity that can keeps their kids from biting/kicking/licking (yes, licking) their friends for more than two minutes.   

"The question is not: what are you? The question is: what are you going to do?" 

I went to synagogue last night.

With my son Ezra and my much-better-half Esther. We ate the challah, and kicked it with the puppets, and ran around with all the little curly-haired kids named Jonah and Ruthie and Caleb and of course Ezra’s best friend Leo. Little Jews with old names. Names like our grandparents and great-grandparents had, before they went out of the style in the 1950s like good blintzes and bad Yiddish jokes. Names that knew pogroms and picket lines and presidents who call themselves nationalists and what happens after that.

I went to synagogue last night.

And then woke up to the news this morning in Pittsburgh.

I went to synagogue last night.

And woke up to news of 11 dead because they are Jews, or tried to protect Jews, or happened to be in a place near Jews. The man who killed those people says he did it because Jews were helping refugees. Or because we control the media. Or we once went to a bar mitzvah with George Soros’ cousin. It doesn’t matter. And it all matters. All too much.

My mom went to synagogue this morning. Shabbat daytime services at the same shul she and my aunt Fran have gone to for over 20 years. A beautiful, egalitarian, rabbi-less synagogue called Fabrangen in my hometown of Washington, DC—not more than two miles from a slightly less egalitarian building called the White House.  

Many of us wanted to assimilate in America. To hide and survive and thrive in America. But history is a ticking clock that always circles back to midnight. Tonight it is dark in America.

They did not come for us first. Muslim. Black. Trans. Mexican. Poor. Women. Palestinian. Immigrant. And many more. Many of us are also those things. And many of us are not. The question is not: what are you? The question is: what are you going to do?  

Personally, I’m going to fight.

Easier said than done, I know. But really, and I mean really, what other choice is there? Hopefully this time we’re not going to make the same mistake of thinking we can do this shit alone. Not me. I’m not doing this alone.

I’m going to go the solidarity vigil with Bend the Arc. I’m going to protest with Jewish Voice for Peace. I’m going to join with Kehilah in fighting ICE raids here in the Bay Area. I’m going to stand with Black Lives Matter, and the Women’s March, and the Trans Justice Project, and the National Day Laborers Organizing Network, and more. And I’m going to ask them to stand with me.  

And I’m going to make sure Jared Kushner and Sheldon Adelson realize their blood money can’t save them from the biblical backhand their bubbes are going to smack them in the afterlife. 

And next week, I’m going back to synagogue.

Because hey, my son loves him a good puppet show.

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Josh Healey

Josh Healey

Josh Healey is an award-winning writer, performer, and creative activist. He is currently the Culture Shift Director for Movement Generation, producing innovative shows, comedic videos, and creative interventions from the frontlines of the climate justice movement in the Bay Area and beyond.

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