I am a Jew. I am a Mother. I am a Jewish Mother…
…and a gunman opened fire at a Jewish school in Toulouse, France today, killing 3 young children and an adult as well as seriously injuring a teenage boy. The adult was not only a teacher at the school but the father of 2 of the younger children.
I have no words. Whenever there is a shooting at a school, I have no words. I have feelings but I can’t find my words. I can only send my thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families, whatever is left of them. May G-d bless you and protect you and keep you safe. May He spare you further sorrow. May you somehow find the strength to continue living life.
This is not the first school shooting we’ve ever heard about, and yet today my feelings take on a whole new twist. Because as a Jew, I can’t help but wonder if this was a targeted hit as opposed to a madman on a motorcycle.
As a Jew, however, I have learned not to make assumptions and to wait for news, and above all NOT to panic. I have also learned that even in the face of fear, I will stand tall and NOT be afraid.
As a Jew, I have learned that even if I am afraid, I will not allow myself to be bullied into hiding this part of my identity. I will proudly wear a star of David or a “Chai” on a chain around my neck, if I so choose. I will speak freely about being Jewish and about all the goodness that it has brought into my life and the lives of my family. I will not act afraid, even if I am…just a teensy weensy bit.
But here’s the thing: I am also a Mother. I am a mother of four children who attend Jewish school. And today, this wasn’t sitting right and I did feel afraid. Now that may seem like it makes no sense. After all, logic tells me that this happened in France, seems to be linked to 2 other incidents which are not particularly anti-Jewish in nature and we all know, as horrific as these things are, that ultimately we cannot control the whim of a mad man. But I am a Mother.
I am a Mother and my antenna has gone up. And, as ashamed as I am to admit it, I considered keeping my kids home today. But I didn’t. I didn’t because what lesson would my children learn from this? If I cave to my fear of an incident halfway around the globe that may or may not have been intended to terrorize Jews, how can I possibly teach them to stand up to a bully in their own schoolyard?
And so I let them go because I am a Mother.
Had the incident, G-d Forbid, taken place in Montreal or elsewhere in Canada, it wouldn’t be so strange for Canadian moms to have second thoughts before sending their children off to school. Because we would say that it “hits close to home”.
As a Jewish Mother, especially one whose children attend Jewish day school, an incident involving a Jewish school anywhere in the world, hits close to home.
You may be wondering why I am writing this post. It’s because today I felt challenged as a Jewish Mother. And then I thought that I couldn’t be the only one feeling this way. So I decided to write this post to share with those of you who are feeling the same sort of things, because just having those feelings validated can sometimes make us feel better.
And now, I will continue to go on with my day. I will follow the news to see what’s going on but it will not take over. I will continue to pray for the families of the victims, but I will stay strong. When my kids come home from school and ask if I am feeling better (Yes, they saw me cry when I read the news), I will tell them that I am.
If they ask if they should be afraid, I will say no. We cannot be afraid of random acts because we never know when they will hit and then we will always walk around afraid. I will further explain that if it turns out that it was not random and that this was intended to terrorize the Jews, that this is yet another bully terrorist trying to scare Jews into hiding in our homes. Yes, these are the conversations that we sometimes have to have as Jewish Mothers.
I know that today will have an impact on the Jewish identity of my children. Just like the Seder, just like Purim & mishloach manot, and Yom Ha’atzmaut. I wish this didn’t have to form part of their Jewish identity, but I know all too well that it does.
Because I am a Jew. Because I am a Mother. Because I am a Jewish Mother.