By Amalya Teitelbaum, Business Editor, and Manager
Pain is something that Jews have been trying to escape for centuries. As a community, we have run and fought for thousands of years. But where are we supposed to run when the pain comes from within?
Eyes excitedly open as a young girl rises out of bed. She races, hands flying as they enthusiastically button holes and knot laces. Out the door she goes, shoes thumping on the ground as she waves good shabbos to her passing neighbor. Practically bouncing up the steps, she opens the door and steps into the women’s section down the block from her new home. Face glowing with excitement from being surrounded by God she almost does not notice the eyes that land on her as the door closes. Almost.
Her body is being stared at and she does not understand why. Her dress is really pretty, her mom had told her so when she tried it on in the dressing room. Sure it was a little short but she felt wonderful in it. Cheeks starting to glow with shame, she crosses the room and sits down. She feels eyes zero in on her hands. No, she didn’t take a siddur before she entered the room. She had no knowledge of how to read it, and while she may have asked before for help from one of the other congregants, now she just wants to disappear. Before she felt God, now all she feels is pain.
What ensues afterward is tragic. The unwanted person sees that they are treated as if she does not belong. The individual has already been deemed not righteous enough, not Jewish enough. So they think to themselves: why should I even bother? Why should I try to connect myself to God when those who are supposedly closest to Him look at me as if I am lesser? So they stop going to the place of God, stop going to the shul, stop everything.
And then we, as a community, look around confused and ask ourselves why shul attendance is shrinking every day.
Consider what would have happened if that individual was welcomed with open arms? What would have happened if that community had chosen to celebrate and accepted the individual, despite differences? The person opened their heart to the community and they had it slashed.
This pain is our reality, but the pain isn’t the path that must be taken. They say love your neighbor as you love yourself, but one must ask if one can truly love themselves if this is how they act. Your neighbor is in pain. The young girl sitting next to you in shul is lost. People in your community are suffering from this judgment. We as a community are failing. Envision a community where individuals, young and old, similar or different, individuals of different values, can sit surrounded by God, in harmony. And imagine a scenario where she can feel at home.
ה’ ׀ ה’ אֵ֥ל רַח֖וּם וְחַנּ֑וּן אֶ֥רֶךְ אַפַּ֖יִם וְרַב־חֶ֥סֶד וֶאֱמֶֽת ׀ נֹצֵ֥ר חֶ֙סֶד֙ לָאֲלָפִ֔ים נֹשֵׂ֥א עָוֺ֛ן וָפֶ֖שַׁע וְחַטָּאָ֑ה וְנַקֵּה֙
“Hashem Hashem! compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and faithfulness, extending kindness to the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin.”
These attributes are what we should strive for to relocate our path. Compassion to those who are novices to our world. Graciousness to those who may have been hurt. Kindness to every generation who may see things a little differently. Forgiveness to those who may have done wrong in your eyes. Boundless mercy. We must be better, standing up for the downtrodden within our community, before we collectively shatter with no way to build ourselves back up again. If we continue to act as we do, we will become our own downfall.
We have forgotten the core of what it means to be Jewish. As a people, we are lost, but that does not mean we cannot find ourselves again.