Thoughts and Prayers Are Not Jewish

I cannot do this anymore. I cannot do this again. And yet, I know I will. Time and time again, I have awoken to a darker world, where one or two or 17 or 26 or 58 lights have been extinguished. And every time, I am paralyzed. Paralyzed by the sheer shock of such an atrocity. Paralyzed by the nagging thought that, “it could be my own (biological) child next time.” (And by the way, I believe that there are no “someone else’s” children – we’re all in this together.) In this past week’s murder at a Florida high school, 17 – SEVENTEEN – souls were lost. For what purpose?

It’s not even remotely important what religion those students practiced or didn’t practice or what the staff who died saving students believed in their hearts. But as a Jewish mother and a leader in my own Jewish community, I couldn’t help noting that five of those 17 have been identified as members of the Broward Jewish community. There has also been speculation that the murderer was involved in anti-Semitic and white nationalist activities. It would not surprise me in the least if that is proven to be true. It’s not that the Jewish lives matter more than any of the other dozen lives stolen this week. It’s just that it makes it all the more personal and close to home.

I confess: In the year or so after the Sandy Hook shooting in December 2012, I was shaken to the core and consumed as much information as I could about all the beautiful children and their teachers and administrators who were hunted down in their school. But as soon as I saw the face of sweet Noah Pozner z”l, my attention turned to him. Was it because he had a Jewish name? Perhaps. It was certainly not because his senseless murder was any more tragic than any of the other 19 school children and six adults killed that day. But I do think it was more because it’s a natural human tendency to feel empathy when we can relate to someone. And Noah Pozner could just as easily have been my daughter, Noa Parker (they were the same age and in the same grade that year). That day forever changed me as a mother. I thought it would change us as a country.

But it didn’t and that’s what is beyond troubling. I’m infuriated by some of the commentary I’ve seen on social media this week, particularly calls to arm teachers and install metal detectors at every school. Sure, that’s action but it doesn’t address the actual issue. I want to see actions that get at the root of the problem, not just try to bandage a gaping wound. If I have a cancerous tumor, I want you to remove it from my body, not just give me some pain meds to make me temporarily comfortable. That’s simply not good enough.

I don’t have all the solutions but I do know that as Jews we are compelled – no, required to act: “deed over creed” as my wise Rabbi Felipe Goodman always reminds me. Thoughts and prayers are NOT Jewish. We need action. Just before Shabbat began, I issued a personal challenge for our Jewish communal leaders to offer the time to their staff to attend a Protect Minnesota rally that is taking place at the Minnesota State Capitol building this coming Thursday (and cosponsored by both National Council of Jewish Women Minnesota and Jewish Community Action) because I believe it’s the most Jewish thing we can DO right now.* But it’s not enough. It’s not enough to throw our hands up and say that this problem is too big or too complex to tackle. It’s not enough that we can’t stand to hear what each other is saying.

If this is about mental health, then our leaders must fund the solutions. If this is about guns, then our leaders must fund the solutions. And if they don’t, we need to find new leaders. Doing nothing is not an option. G-d help us if any of our kids are next.

*Additional opportunities to do Jewish locally this week: