When my best friend from college came to visit me for a weekend, she began to cry as we walked up to my synagogue with our kids. I asked her why and she said, “Don’t you see how sad it is that there have to be all the police around just so you can go to synagogue and not be shot?” Of course, I had noticed the uptick in police presence since the 2016 election, the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville and the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh. My colleague, professor Jonathan Sarna, has done detailed work on the antisemitism that pulsed quite explicitly through the Jan. 6 riot at the capital. But through it all, it didn’t ever strike me as tragic.
Seeing my friend’s tears made me question the lack of my own, especially given the relative differences in our lives. My friend loves her Jewish identity but doesn’t live an active Jewish life, whereas I’m immersed in Judaism both personally and professionally. Seeing her tear up at the entrance of my synagogue raised a fundamental question for me: Why was I uncomfortable with her tears?
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