Wednesday, February 22, 2017

In the wake of recent attacks on St. Louis Jews

My heart is with all the Jewish families in St. Louis. I used to live right by the cemetery that was attacked and ran past it 4-5 times/week. I made my route in such a way in order to pass it twice. Passing it always made me feel connected and I often stopped there to stretch. I didn't mean to trivialize a sacred place by stretching there but to be present with so many lives that had passed, thinking of what they'd done. I was keenly aware that many of those stones likely represented holocaust survivors. And some were older and there's something comforting about things that have been in one place for a long time.

Running for me is where I use my body to slow my mind and think more clearly. It was vital to my overcoming seizures in my early twenties when I lived in U City. Each day, I had a goal to run and I did and I felt control over my body and my mind, when I was struggling to have control over either. I was in college and needed to get through a lot of academic material. I used running to process and brainstorm. I gained writing habits and routines that I use to this day, running there. I'm heartbroken and this was my minimal connection to the 170 gravestones that were maliciously knocked over. I can only imagine the feelings of those with loved ones there. And this on the heels of bomb threats to the J the week before. It's just too much.

Our loved ones we've lain to rest are sacred in our minds. This broke into a mental space and a physical one. It cracked into something sacred and that's unacceptable.

I remember when a high school friend was the victim of anti-semitism early on in college. She had gone away to school to a rural section of the state, outside of what I then thought of as the safe-haven of St. Louis. I was completely floored and incredulous that someone would target someone for being Jewish. I knew so many Jewish kids. They were in my honors classes, arguing their points about literature. Jewish holidays at school meant classrooms were emptied. It was noteworthy and taught me a lot about considering other people. Even now if I try to tease out all the people I know who are Jewish, I can't because they are so many and so large in my life.

I remember going to a Jewish cemetery in Prague and sitting down with the prayers all around, the mossy headstones stacked nearly atop one another, weighty with WWII even 50 years later. I remember touring a concentration camp and how embarrassed I was at the emotions that flooded me and that it took everything I had at 20 to hold back my tears and horror. I hid my tears but I could not hold them in, even when I was younger and "tougher."

I remember walking through the Anne Frank house and wanting to sit on the floor alone for hours. I remember late night talks with another high school friend about her trip to Israel where she was selected to go as a religious community leader. I remember my high school boyfriend going to Israel to serve in the army. I remember so many connections to this community.

I'm so, so grateful to have grown up parallel to such a vibrant Jewish community. To the Jewish community, I hope you feel the support of all of us who sat next to you and took prom pictures with you. I'm incredibly sorry to hear that anti-semitism is alive and exists at this level of powerful.

I know you though. I grew up with you. Together we are more powerful than they are. My thoughts, heart, tears, and prayers are with you.