The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College since 1873

Author: Anonymous

Anonymous: Our Jewish Ahava

On October 27, the Jewish community lost 11 of our own. In mourning the tragedy that took place at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, it’s more important than ever that we understand what it means to be Jewish and what makes the Jewish connection so strong.  It’s natural to assume that religion is the common thread that runs within each member of the Jewish community; however Jews express their faith in many different ways.   Even with a common set of ethics and values, there are three distinct levels of religious devotion.  Some Jews refrain from using their cell phones on Shabbat, while many Jews rarely—if ever—attend synagogue.  Others believe that the Jewish people are bound to one another through culture.  While many Jews express their Jewish identity through holiday traditions, a shared sense of humor, and an appreciation for matzah ball soup, the ways in which Jews express culture also differs drastically between communities.  A Jewish sense of culture and religion surly creates a bond between us, but there is much more to being Jewish.  What is it that truly makes someone Jewish?

The relationship that I have with other Jews is the same relationship that I have with my family. Like all families, we often argue and bicker with one another.  When one member of the family accomplishes something special, we all feel proud.  When a member of the family does something immoral, their shame is reflected upon all of us.  Above all else, when one member of the Jewish family feels pain, their pain is felt in Jewish hearts all across the world.  So when I think about the 11 congregants murdered last week, I think not of strangers but of brothers, sisters, and cousins.

The shooting that occurred last month not only reminds me of my Jewish identity but also of the Jewish story. Most people read the Jewish story and see oppression and prejudice.  While suffering and marginalization are inextricably linked to the Jewish story, there also rests resilience and strength.  Even when the darkest chapters seemed like they may be our last, Jews refused to let others decide their fate.  When Jews wandered the desert as strangers for 40 years, the miracle of Israel was on the other side.  When Goliath threatened to expunge Maccabee’s troops, little David slayed the giant against all odds.  When 2/3 of Europe’s Jews were shipped in crates to the concentration camps in Nazi Germany and exterminated, we mourned and continue to remember, but we survived.  The Jewish story is one of underdogs and survivors.

The next chapter of Jewish history will not be written by people who deny Jews the right to exist and worship in peace.  The next chapter will be written by those who continue to pray on Shabbat, cook, and come together as a family.  That’s what it means to be Jewish, that’s ahava.  That’s our story.

Anonymous: Where are the Jewish Allies at Bates?

In the aftermath of the Pittsburgh shooting, I found myself shocked, saddened, and angry. Not solely by the event itself, but by the lack of reaction from the non-Jewish community at Bates.

Talking to my Jewish friends, they expressed similar sentiments; it was only fellow Jews who were talking about the attack. Why is it that we are only finding solidarity within our own community? Where is the support from the college? Where are the Jewish allies on the Bates campus? From this experience I find myself asking, does our college community support other groups on campus facing tragedy and fear?

In the future, I hope we all will.

Anonymous: For Jews, Wisdom has Always been Central

I was initially asked to write a long piece for the Student reflecting on this event as a Jew. I encouraged Bates Hillel to submit individual reflections. For me, representing the Jewish experience at Bates through a singular lens feeds into the harmful concept of Semitic-sameness. In our faith and culture, dissent is valued above accord. If you know me, you’ll know that that’s what I love the most about my faith.

Wisdom has always been central to my relationship with Judaism. Three-hour dinner debates were the norm in my household. Nightly we’d discuss everything from public policy to Friday Night Lights. This wisdom included an acknowledgment of my family’s immense privilege. I have been lucky to avoid facing the antisemitism that my ancestors have fought against, and I have fully embraced the understanding that I hold both white privilege and economic privilege. I am afraid in the wake of this shooting of being too afraid AND of not being afraid enough. I must walk through this world with the weight of intersecting privilege and marginalization as we all should.

Being an American under this administration means acknowledging the multitudes of affinity groups under attack, and working to end all forms of bias and discrimination in this country. I own my great people’s history of suffering and strength, and I pledge to work towards a peaceful future for all people, regardless of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, ability, ethnicity, or faith.

Anonymous: Unacceptable Silence in the Wake of the Tree of Life

Something terrible happened in my 100’s-level politics class. Going over news stories from the weekend, the professor asked for a student to give the headline, the impact, and how we felt about it. Silence followed. In a class of 40, no one stuck their neck out to give voice to what happened. The students in the class knew what happened, but collectively made a decision towards silence. This scenario is what allows for the rhetoric which invites violence to continue– when the educated choose not to speak out. If willed ignorance is what happens in a politics class which demands discussion, then silence is what rules outside of class. This is not an issue that Jewish students must speak out against– Pittsburgh is not a Jewish lesson to learn. It’s the burden of our community to break that silence, and that is not happening now.

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