My House of Worship is Not a Safe Place

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My house of worship is not a safe place

With the news of yet another hostage situation at a synagogue, I’m at a loss as to what to do.

Everyone has a right to feel safe.

No one should walk around in fear. My home and my house of worship should be two physical spaces where panic and alarm should not enter my mind. I can tell you this is not my experience. Living in a “Jewish neighborhood” means I am surrounded by others who celebrate the same holidays and have similar beliefs. This also means my house can be identified as Jewish by the mezuzah – a piece of parchment with a Jewish prayer on it blessing my house – that hangs by my front doors.

I need protection to pray.

Every time my family walks into the synagogue (house of Jewish worship) we are greeted by a police car parked outside, followed by a security officer who is posted at the door for our protection. For the most sacred of holidays, there is usually a community member standing with the police officer to help identify who belongs there and who may be a threat.

Imagine explaining to your children that our family needs protection to be Jewish.

Every parent who walks in eyes the exits. Many of us have been through active shooter training. Certain people, many with military training, are often the ones who sit closest to the door. No one should have to think about this as they enter their house of worship. No one!

On Sundays, I drop my kids off at Sunday school. There, they learn prayers and traditions with other Jewish kids their age. Before leaving the parking lot, I pray that I have not sent them into a hostage situation like the one that just happened in Colleyville, TX or worse to be killed because of their religion.

My kids also go to Jewish overnight camp where they spend time exploring their own Jewish identity. It is a magical experience! But long before they arrive at camp, I have reviewed security measures, have spoken with law enforcement, and understand that by sending my kids to a place that identifies as Jewish, I am acknowledging the heightened risk they may face.

My choices are gut-wrenching.

As a parent who is trying to teach their children to be proud of their heritage and beliefs, while also trying to shield them from hatred is gut-wrenching. To think that there is such animosity in the world, specifically being targeted at my family’s beliefs, makes me even prouder to be who I am. I am also conscious that my religion makes people hate me and my family for something we were born into.

To be so proudly Jewish, but to also be so aware of my family’s safety is a constant conflict. It’s a battle I want you to know about this because we, as Jews, can’t fight anti-semitism alone. This is what it’s like to be a Jew in today’s world. These are the choices Jewish mothers and fathers are faced with as we try to teach the next generation where we came from and what we believe in. This is our life and our reality, but we know this is not how it should be.

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A South Carolina native, Erica is originally from the Upstate and has moved back to Charleston with her family after a 10 year, traffic-filled hiatus in Atlanta, GA. Having lived in only two states she likes to explore different cultures through travel and food.  Of all the hats Erica wears her most important roles are as a wife, mother, daughter and fundraiser for her alma mater, College of Charleston. She has been married to her college sweetheart for 13 years and together they have to kiddos that keep them on their toes.  She prides herself on being honest about motherhood and enjoys learning from other moms who tell it like it is. When life offers a little down time Erica enjoys wave jumping at the beach, unapologetically watching bad TV and organizing and re-organizing everything from the dishwasher to the sock drawers to help calm her inner OCD.