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.
You are not alone. That is the gift of our connection, isn’t it? A shared experience in its thousands of forms. The danger, that is the downside. Thanks to you for writing this, and sharing it out.
Thanks Dr G. It is the gift of our connection, as you so eloquently state. Thanks for reading and for letting me (and everyone else feeling this way) that we are not alone.
such an amazing post.
Sharing in your grief today! Words cannot express the horror I felt when I heard the news.
Horrifying. Thanks for sharing Karyn.
A very sad day for the global Jewish community. Although there is much that separates us from a community living in France, I think there is more that connects us. I shared with my students the events that took place today. They somehow understood but we then began a conversation about antisemitism and why some people hate the Jewish community. As always, it is knowledge and information that will combat ignorant prejudice. Ultimately, being safe, secure and protected is something we partially can do something about and something we look to heaven for at the same time. May the family be comforted and find consolation from such horrific grief.
Rabbi Fishman- I have to agree that there is more that connects us and that as much as we can do to keep safe, it is not all in our hands. Amen to your words for the families.
A very endearing article you wrote about a horrific
event which took place today.
Horrible events keep happening to Jews and non Jews
in a so called civilized society. How can we all
stop it? I don’t know. But governments on all sides
of this global world must make a much stronger effort
in eradicating hatred and mental brainwashing. To be
apathetic and believe that it will simply outlive
itself will be to the detriment of all inhabitants of
this world, whether they be, Jewish, Christians, or
For the sake of mankind today and in the future,
please do not be indifferent, one and all.
Thank you Tanya for a beautifully scripted article.
Thank you Sarah for your kind words as well as for your accurate thought. Apathy will not move us forward.
I have a stone in the pit of my stomach.
I want to be able to protect these innocent
and yet feel entirely helpless.
We all know and feel that this is not a madman this is a way of making us as Jews to feel afraid.
That way he succeeds, but we will always get up
because that is the way we are taught.
My thoughts go out to the Mother and wife of those who fell today, just because they are Jews. Back to the 30s, look like they never left us.
Rita- you are not alone in your feelings. your words are so true: “we will always get up because that is the way we were taught”. I have not stopped thinking of that poor woman all week. May G-d bless & protect her and what is left of her family.
Tanya, as I prepare to travel abroad and look forward to seeing the Jewish areas of Italy I’m sad because I know they will all be on high alert. I’m sad because just one week ago they may have welcomed me with open arms but now they will be suspect.
Jews have been dealing with this for too long. But each time it brings us closer together, more unified. And one day, there will be no hate.
Simon Wiesenthal once said – “Survival is a privilege which entails obligations. I am forever asking myself what I can do for those who have not survived.”
While he said that in the context of surviving the Holocaust, it is applicable for Jews around the world when horrific events like this happen. But each of us does something, even if it’s just bringing awareness.
Sara- I hope the enjoyment of your trip will not be affected too much.
I pray for your words to come true.
Thanks so much Sara, and I wish you a safe & wonderful trip.
I’m not Jewish, but I am a mom and this story really struck a nerve in me too. I’m glad you wrote this post – it makes me feel better to know I’m not alone thinking about keeping my daughter home when I hear about these types of things – and then ultimately letting her go…that’s what we do, as parents, isn’t it?
Letting go is what we do and what we have to do…as difficult as it can be. You’re not alone. Glad I’m not, either 🙂
Tanya, your beautiful post brought me to tears. I feel your pain and the pain of the grieving families – and all of the people around the world who are touched by this sad event. You are a strong voice and a wonderful mother. You are not alone. It makes me feel good to see that I am not alone, too.
Thanks so much Sarena. Not feeling alone makes us feel stronger 🙂
Ist a shame you are rigth we are proud to be jew