I’ve raised my daughters within my traditions. Some, rooting for the Chicago Cubs for one, they’ve rejected on their face, but others — such as rooting for the Democrats have been embraced.
Religion, though, is something different. I’ve taught my kids it’s part of who you are, like your limbs or your eye color.
As I go to synagogue this week during the Jewish High Holy Days, and read about the dramatic rise in hate crimes targeting Jews in New York City and around the world, I find myself questioning whether I’ve made a bad choice in this area and, rather, should have given my girls the message, “Find your own religion or accept none at all.” That route feels safer today.
Our synagogue has a security guard, as do most around the country. I don’t think my daughters have ever thought this strange. It’s just part of the post-9-11 world they have grown up in.
Every year, the NYPD posts an officer outside during High Holy Day services, as they do at places Jews worship around the city. Even this practice never raised my girls’ concern, since the police should help with crowd and traffic control.
When I was growing up, anti-Semitism was everywhere and displayed in dramatic fashion on the world stage. I remember the 1972 Olympics and the unfolding tragedy of the Israeli athletes, ending in their deaths.
During the 1974 oil crisis, while sitting in long, long lines for gas, many people openly blamed American Jews for getting us into this situation. It was no secret that many organizations and clubs wouldn’t accept Jewish members.
By the time my daughters got here, I thought much had changed and they could be happy and proud to be Jewish, inside our home and in the community.
Now, I’m not so sure. The world seems to be splintering into tribes — there are separatists in towns in Scotland, California, and Texas, among others. My parental instincts to protect my girls kick in.
Identity, though, is different than a bicycle helmet. One you learn to put on and the other you can’t take off. I’m not able to protect my children from who they are.
Should I teach my girls to retreat into a safe community, living only with Jews, walking only in Jewish neighborhoods, depending only on other Jews for protection?
The problem is, my daughters are Jews but they are also athletes and artists and so much more. All the things that make them who they are, that have gone into creating their identities, make them want to engage with people, places, and ideas.
Rosh Hashanah, in Jewish tradition, is the anniversary of the world’s creation. Judaism also teaches that the world isn’t perfect and we all share a responsibility to repair or heal the world. Even in the face of rising hate crimes, the lesson I want my daughters to learn this year is, “Separating out of fear won’t help.” Participate, join, act, and make the world a better and safer place for everyone.