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  • Writer's pictureLeah Jones

Thoughts on Tisha BAv

Here I sit. Having forgotten that I was fasting, stuffing my face with Oreo cookies and red wine. You’d think a sister could remember that she was fasting–especially since the cookies hit my mouth within 15 minutes of coming home from shul.

Reform Jews have only recently began recognizing Tisha B’Av again. At my temple it was the Rabbi before my Rabbi who re-introduced Tisha B’Av services. “Why,” the Reforms say, “mourn the loss of something we don’t want back?” Namely the Temple in Jeruselum. Why don’t we want it back? If you rebuild the Temple, you bring back the sacrificial cult of judaism. Who really wants to go back to sacrificing animals to appease God? Reform Jews say, “No thanks. We like our Judaism without sacrifice of flesh.”

In an intimate setting, we sat at four tables and lit 24 candles in sets of six. Each set of six candles represented the six million Jews who were murdered during the Shoa. Four tables for four questions–a modification to the Passover tradition of four questions.

I nearly spoke up at every question, but flexing my jewish wings in front of my congregation makes me nervous. With jewish friends, strangers, online, with my family–I have no problem talking judaism. But impromptu speaking in front of my Rabbi and fellow congregants–can’t quite do it. One question made my blood run cold. This is one of the first times I think I can say that not as a metaphor, but my blood chilled and my bones ached and I wanted to answer the question–but I couldn’t find the words.

Why continue? If it is so dangerous to be a Jew, why bother? If the rest of the world hates us so much, has tried to exterminate us so many times–why not just say fine, we’ll be the last generation. To hell with this, throw in the towel.

My friend Greg said, “Because…” He had no more words than I, other than a conviction that he can’t give up judaism. That his son will enter the covenant and be raised as a Jew. Another man said, “Because I have no choice. Nobody asked me, but I’m a jew.”

I wanted to scream, “I HAVE A CHOICE! I HAVE A CHOICE! And I wouldn’t, couldn’t have it any other way.” I’m only starting to understand in recent weeks, the danger of being a Jew today. The intense hatred people have for Jews. That there are people who still want to see all Jews exterminated. There are places in the world that Jews can’t live. It is dangerous to be a Jew and it might be more dangerous for my children.

But the beauty and joy and tradition that Judaism has to offer far outweighs the danger. That might seem sweet or sentimental, but the simple truth is that I refuse to live in fear. I refuse to be a woman who fears rape every minute I’m walking down the street. It doesn’t mean I don’t have street smarts, it means I refuse to let the rapist win my making my heart beat faster. As a Jew, I also won’t live in fear of people who hate Jews. I hope I won’t raise children who are fearful because they are Jews. Who are angry at me for choosing to be a Jew and taking that choice away from them. For putting them in danger, because I wanted to be closer to God.

“What if,” a friend asked me early this year, “your children don’t want to be Jews?” What if, she was asking, they turn their backs on Judaism, they let it end with me, they don’t continue our 4,000 year old story? I can’t fathom it, even though it happens every day. Jews tip toe away from Judaism, because it is easier than being a Jew.

I could find no way to express this tonight, so I said nothing. I lit my candle instead and let it warm my blood back up. The story is not stopping, not with this generation.

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