On Saturday night, I told my daughter, “It is ok to be afraid.” I couldn’t entirely shield her from the hostage situation at a Texas synagogue. She is old enough to know when her parents are worried and brushing off her fears would be akin to dismissing her. She wanted to know everything about the gunman. His name, his motives, his reasons for wanting to visit a synagogue. It became clear to her that although “Texas” feels far away, this was a person that came very close to harming a rabbi and his congregants. She has two parents as rabbis. She is often a congregant in the sanctuary. For any rabbi’s kid, the hostage situation unfolded a nightmare they didn’t know exists. And so, I told her, “It is ok to be afraid. I’m scared too.”
Because I am.
We also spoke about how safe we are, the precautions we take every day, the blessings of having a Jewish Federation that knows the importance of strong security and how proud we were of the rabbi’s actions. We praised law enforcement. And reinforced a familiar mantra to the Jewish people: We can be afraid. But fear doesn’t preclude living. Fear must not inhibit loving. Fear will not prevent returning.
I listened to Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker in an interview. He was asked if he plans on returning to his synagogue after experiencing such a traumatic ordeal. He seemed confused by the question. The rabbi explained that of course he would return. The synagogue is his home. I found myself nodding. Rabbis spend more time at shul than almost anywhere else. This is where we connect, pray, learn, and love. The shul is where Judaism expands, innovates, takes root, and grows. The synagogue IS home.
Many have expressed a similar fear. And I stand with you. It is ok to be afraid. I am afraid. But I will acknowledge my fear and on Shabbat morning, walk proudly through the doors of our sanctuary. Gathering with my community. Praying as we have for thousands of years. Connecting with God. Holding each other.
Join me Shabbat morning. Come home. There is no place I would rather be.
In partnership with The Jewish Journal, you can also find Rabbi Guzik’s blog post HERE.