Tonight, we took my husband’s grandparents—survivors of the Soviet Union—to see The Fiddler on the Roof. They sacrificed everything to come here for the chance of living a Jewish life. So did his parents. Uncles. Aunts. Friends. Neighbors. They gathered here, and they brought their traditions with them. Our traditions. Our collective history tells the tale of people who came here, with nothing but hope, to build a strong Jewish life. And build they did. But, it’s more than that. Jewish immigrants didn’t just come here to build, they came here with the intent to take care of each other. That’s our job as a people, to care for one another. With great sacrifice and determination, our nation, our people, has thrived, through the hate, through the wars, through the voices that tell us that we don’t belong here.
We’re still here.
The timing felt so strange—yesterday, tragedy, today, the theater. I cried my whole way through the show, thinking of the victims and their families—of our nation, our people, who mourn together over the loss of our brothers and sisters, watching as the villagers of Anatevka were pushed out of their homes and into a foreign land. To America, for a better life.
The lines between the theater and reality blurred. Pogroms happen in Russia, in the 1880’s, not in 2018, in America, in Pennsylvania, not in Pittsburgh, where my friends from childhood—my family—live and pray and send their children to school. Not in our communities.
Writing this feels surreal. I grew up “knowing” that anti-semitism doesn’t happen in America. I remember watching The Fiddler on the Roof with my family as a child, and thinking about how sad and senseless the pogroms and evictions were, but how, that was far away…far, far away. Tonight, sitting in the theater, I couldn’t help but cry out loud at the irony of what I was watching unfold on stage.
We’re still here.
I think of my own parents, and the sacrifices they made to raise us here, away from their own parents, away from everything they knew—they wanted us to experience Judaism that knew no bounds. They wanted us to walk through the streets with Jewish pride beaming on our faces. They wanted us to attend public Menorah lightings, holiday services, Shabbat meals, Jewish summer camps, without fear, without hesitation, with the strongest sense of Jewish identity instilled in our hearts. They knew that a Jewish life was no sacrifice at all.
We’re still here.
Our traditions, our beliefs, our heritage are not sacrifices. It is a honor and a privilege to be Jewish. It is a joy to celebrate Shabbat with family and friends, to take part in a mitzvah, to be part of a community—a family. The victims of yesterday’s massacre knew that, and they lived that until their last breaths.
In joy, we celebrate together; in pain, we cry together. We are not a nation that is known for sitting silently in the face of tragedy. We never have and never will sit idly by while the world has its way with us. No. Not now, not ever. We retaliate with action. Positive, measurable action.
The infamous phrase “a little light dispels a lot of darkness’ could not be more true here and now. Let our history continue to show that in the face of utter and total darkness, we acted with light.
We’re still here. Let’s flood the world with light until we’re blinded. Let’s energize and shake up the world with light. What we need now is action. We need it now more than ever.
The world feels so dark right now. Let’s do something about it.
I want to honor the victims of yesterday’s tragedy with light. In the merit of the victims, I pledge to G-d willing light Shabbat candles fifteen minutes early every week, and to give one coin to charity for each of the eleven murdered prior to bringing in Shabbat.
We’re still here. Let’s fill the world with light.