The flags on the flagpoles rested at half-staff the morning of Oct. 29, the initial sign that the university took steps to observe the victims of Saturday morning’s shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue on Oct. 27 in Pittsburgh.
As a Jewish individual in Warrensburg, I am finding it harder and harder to cope with the days following the shooting. I feel like the flags were the only sign of anything that’s been done here. It seems like maybe that was enough, because it happened in Pittsburgh and our community has other priorities, but that’s not the case. It matters here because we are a community –– that means we need to be looking out for each individual and meeting them where they are: in grief, celebration or other times.
Social media has been my outlet and connection to many Jewish friends during this time. I grew up going to Sunday school, had a bat-mitzvah, attended a Jewish summer camp and so much more. Judaism is one of my strongest identities.
To see a Jewish community targeted on the Sabbath, a day of rest, in their own beit knesset –– house of worship –– hurts. A lot.
I know it may not be the easiest topic for non-Jewish people to talk about and truly understand, but right now I feel like any conversation is a good conversation.
Not many conversations have been going on among my non-Jewish friends on social media and barely any throughout the university.
The first class I heard it discussed in was because I said something. The teacher touches on current events almost every class and she mentioned something about the Pittsburgh shooting. At first I sat and observed the class to see if anyone would respond. They did not.
I then took the opportunity to say how I felt about it, and that all I wanted to see was support for the Jewish community. Someone responded with something along the lines of, “Well, I think it’s because it’s a religious thing.” I can’t make an assumption about where this student was coming from, but the tone and quick response left me feeling like because it’s a religious thing we don’t need to talk about it. A lot of people in college are not as observant of religions as they once were. However, for those of us that are, it still matters and it certainly is a religious thing. But just because it’s a religious matter doesn’t mean others of different faiths cannot show support.
Don’t get me wrong –– back home in St. Louis I have been seeing a lot more of the non-Jewish communities coming together to support my temple and those in the surrounding area.
I would like to have seen something more at the University of Central Missouri besides the lowered flags, which was a presidential order.
Maybe a post from our university president that this massacre happened and we don’t tolerate anti-semitism here (because it is definitely a thing in our community) and him saying that the community supports those of the Jewish faith would have been appreciated.
Most of the time, I feel like the lone Jew in Warrensburg because there are no campus organizations or temple nearby. It’s an honor and a struggle, but I know there have to be other Jewish people here. If there are and they are struggling, know that I support you and have been praying for our strength to overcome this.
At first, I thought maybe my strong sense of Jewish identity was getting the best of me and causing me to feel like everyone needed to understand the horrific scene that unfolded that Saturday morning on the same emotional level as myself. To a point that was true; I wanted empathy.
The more I have tried to understand the situation and reflect on what I can do, the more I am finding I just want people to show support.
Attend a vigil, reach out to your Jewish friends (thank you to those who have done so for me), make a supportive post, do something.
I notice we tend to support those of other identities which are not our own by attending their parades, rallies and events they hold. Let’s try to step up more for those who may not be like us. There is a big learning opportunity when we step out of our comfort zone.
Reach out, ask questions, have a conversations or do some research. You’ll feel empowered to do more if you take the time to learn and listen.
My rabbi back home, Amy Feder, head rabbi at Congregation Temple Israel, said something that has given me hope.
“Our lives are going to go on as they always have been,” she said. “We’re going to continue being Jewish and practicing our faith and we are going to keep coming together and we are not going to let fear stop us.”