Sometimes being a parent makes me ambivalent about the world. I am too busy parenting to think about the rest of the world. Sometimes, being a parent makes me hyper-focused on the world.
I woke up to news that yet another black man was murdered by the police. What is a parent to do? We teach our children to respect and trust the police. Do we keep teaching these lessons? How do we explain that police officers can be wrong? How do we explain that, in city after city across our country, black men are being murdered by police officers?
What is a parent to do? I hide the newspaper lest any graphic images haunt my child with anxiety. I talk to my teens about how I feel, what I believe. Do I march? Do I protest? Is it too dangerous? Could I get hurt? How can a parent put herself in danger? Do my kids come with me to march and protest? How can a parent put their children in danger?
Will my Facebook posts offend anyone? Does my candor shock their coaches, their teachers? Have my politics offended the parents of their friends? Do I care? Should I care? Life as a parent isn’t mine alone – it is also their life.
Being a parent is the lens with which I view the world, but being a Jewish parent is looking through a telescope. I see things more clearly, more sharply. I don’t know how to parent right now, but the words and teachings of my people are leading me.
“Lo alecha ham ‘lacha ligmor, Lo alecha ligmor.
V’lo ata ben chorim l’hibatil mimena, mimena”
It is not your duty to complete the work. Nor up to you to finish it. But neither are you free to desist from it. (Mishnah Avot 2:16)
Going to the vigil at JJ Hill Montessori School to honor the memory of Philando Castile isn’t going to fix the world, but for the first time all day I felt something other than hopeless. I stood with friends, I stood with strangers, I stood with Jews, Christians, Muslims, black folks, brown folks, and white folks like me. I stood, I chanted, I cried, I marched. I don’t know what else to do? I wrote letters to my teens at camp and told them about the vigil, I showed pictures to my teen at home. I will write to my legislators, I will listen to voices of reason, I will try to do right – as a parent, as a person, as a Jew. I ache to do right.
“Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof“ – Justice Justice shall you pursue” (Shoftim, Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9)
“Kol me she-‘efshar limhot ve-lo mihah nitpas `al ‘oto `avon” – anyone who can make a protest and does not do so, is held responsible for that sin. (Gemara in Shabbat (54b)
My ambivalence is fading; answers are coming into focus. It is precisely because I am a parent that I need to do more: I need to lead by example and show my children how to deal with injustice. I am thankful I can do this with others in our Jewish community.