Growing up in Orange County, it was a refrain I would hear often. “You don’t look Jewish.” Light hair, fair-skinned, blue eyes, I struggled with the people that would try to convince me with might and frustration that I couldn’t possibly be born a Jew. My mother would remind me to look the agitator in the eye and respond, “Well, tell me. What then, does a Jew look like?”
Just take a look at our congregation on a Shabbat morning. Dark, light, blue-eyed or green, Persian, Israeli, Russian, native Californian…we all look Jewish to me. But not because of our skin tone or eye-tint.
What does a Jew look like? We light candles on Shabbat and bless our children; we rush to services to ensure our fellow Jews can make a minyan to say Kaddish; we blow the Shofar, build a sukkah, and light the Channukiah; we feel a deep, moving tie to Eretz Yisrael; we look at the brokenness of the world and find ways to help; we question and debate thousands of years of our rich, Jewish wisdom; we never stop praying for peace and hoping for change.
The shootings in Pittsburgh were meant to shake our identity and scare us into a surrendering of faith. But clearly, the shooter didn’t understand the make-up of a Jew.
What does a Jew look like?
When shackled or strangled, shoved or slandered, our voices join in one solitary call to action: Sh’ma Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad.
Dear God, we will not hide. Look at our faces. On this Shabbat and each Shabbat after, we will sing and live with resilience, survival, light and love.