It has been three months since the horrific massacre of Jewish civilians in Israel on Oct. 7, 2023, and I have been struggling to find the words to give expression to my pain.

Families. Children. Babies. The elderly, disabled and sick. Brutally murdered and raped. Taken hostage. Gone.

But words matter, as my rabbi powerfully reminded me during a recent Shabbat service.

I admittedly have been scared to share them publicly. Antisemitism is real, including here in America.

Yet, as we begin a new year during a time when darkness can feel as ubiquitous as the air we breathe, one way I am connecting with light is by allowing my heart and soul to breathe their truths.

What is my truth?

I am frightened. Fractured. Falling apart.

I am heartbroken over the devastating loss and suffering of both Israelis and Palestinians.

My sense of belonging, one of my core values, is but a shadow of its former, already weakened self.

My sense of belonging has always been tenuous.

For as long as I can remember, I have felt unworthy, anxious and self-doubting.

Despite growing up in a tight knit, loving family, I have longed for safety, comfort and validation since my childhood days.

Until recently, I believed I had reason to be ashamed and worried, that something within me was inherently flawed.

How do I need to be, to act, to change, in order to be seen and accepted by my peers and the broader world?

I now understand how our inherited histories and traumas can leave imprints and patterned expressions in our bodies, brains and lives.

I am Jewish.

Until the State of Israel was established, my ancestors were eternal refugees in a world where a sense of home was simply a hope.

Their flight, their fear, their fractured states are my own.

It has been hard to function in recent months.

How can I be present in my life, my work, when my fear and grief are both deeply immobilizing and activating?

On top of that, I have, at times, been questioning my right to feel this way.

I do not have immediate family in Israel. I have lived a privileged life as a white, straight, cis, college-educated woman.

Moreover, the times we are living through and the histories that have preceded them are deeply complex. I find myself with so many questions and very few answers.

Hear me when I say though that I am not OK.

Because I am Jewish, there have always been people and groups in this world who want to extinguish me and my extended Jewish family.

My cells know this, my heart recognizes this, and my nervous system serves as a constant reminder of this truth as well.

Leaning into community, nurturing relationships, taking values-aligned actions, connecting with nature, going for long walks, dancing, spreading small acts of kindness, engaging in shared reflection, and offering and receiving mutual support.

These are all things that I believe can offer moments and experiences of light, solace and hope during times of deep pain and collective trauma.

Most weeks, it isn’t until I walk into my synagogue for Shabbat that I feel like I can finally exhale.

I will continue to return to my temple for community, comfort and a sense of belonging.

To live and celebrate my Judaism.

To know that I am not someone who needs to be erased, but someone who I and others can fully embrace.

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