I struggled with writing this note to you. Another synagogue, another shooting, another person dead and more wounded. First Pittsburgh, then New Zealand and Sri Lanka, and now, Poway, a short distance away from San Diego. Ma nishtana? What’s different?
I find myself increasingly inured to the violence, increasingly numb to the anti-Semitism, prejudice and hatred undergirding the most recent shootings. Are you? Did you brush by this one in the news, because it was “only” one dead, because maybe it was far away from where you lived? Or was it close by, and you sat up and took careful notice because it struck too close to home?
What IS too close to home?
I’m numb to this shooting, but I pinch myself. Wake up! I stop and think about the role that we at InterfaithFamily have to play here—and I include you in this, our supporters, readers, subscribers. We have a chance here, and the question is: Will we seize it?
We have known for so long about the opportunity that interfaith families bring to each other and the Jewish community—a chance to bridge religious tolerance and inclusion, to understand each other’s spirituality and traditions, to understand the pain that comes from religious intolerance and hatred. Understanding, empathy and compassion are at the root of eradicating hatred, prejudice and anti-Semitism.
I sat in my grandmother’s Russian Orthodox church as a little Jewish girl, looking up and trying to understand what her Mass was about. Last week, my Catholic nieces sat around their Jewish grandparents’ seder, reciting the words in our Passover Haggadah and celebrating the freedom that the holiday represents. They will be there for Rosh Hashanah, and Hanukkah, too—and to celebrate the simchas, the celebrations to come of baby namings and bar mitzvahs for their Jewish family members.
Being part of an interfaith family is not always easy. Sometimes, it’s really hard. But more than our Jewish-Jewish counterparts, we have an opportunity to grow the understanding, empathy and compassion that is so needed in our world right now—beginning with our families and loved ones. Because we understand so intimately the differences between religions and the challenges that that sometimes raises, we are uniquely situated to help heal the world—by broadening the tent of inclusion and acceptance of people who are different than us, but part of us.
Because we understand what it means to be part of an interfaith family, and to grapple with understanding each other’s backgrounds, traditions, cultures and faiths, we have a responsibility to share that knowledge with others. Please join me in showing up, and showing our strength and experience in welcoming, including and understanding others, both within and outside of Jewish life. In the face of more hatred and anti-Semitism, take a step today toward healing the world.