Steve Cotler

Steve Cotler

Tree of Life

My daughter Abigail wrote this today.

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I root myself to the ground. I will not give in to fear.

Tree of Life Synagogue [UPI Photo]

Last night my thirteen-year-old attended his first confirmation class, during which they discussed the murders in Pittsburgh.

“There are people who really, really hate Jews, Mom. It pretty much sucks.” I asked him if he wanted to talk about it more, but he said he needed a break from it.

When I started to discuss it yesterday with my nine-year-olds (unplanned, unfortunately), my daughter about lost her mind. “Why do people hate Jews so much?” she sobbed. “Why do they want to kill us? Are they going to come to OUR temple and try to kill US?” I had to pull her down from her perch of hysteria. Her twin brother sat silent, and sad.

I root myself to the ground for my children. I cannot allow them to live in fear.

Today, with my daughter in a calmer state, I continued the conversation.

“There is hate in the world. Hate for Jews and hate for Muslims. Hate for people who aren’t white. Hate for people who are gay. Hate for women who want to be treated fairly. Hate for people trying to find a better life to live in the U.S.”

It rips me to shreds that I even have to have this kind of a conversation with my children.

I continued. “If I seem sad right now, it is because I am sad about what happens when all that hate drives people to do such awful things.”

My son was wounded. “But I’m just a kid. Do they hate Jewish KIDS, too?”

“It doesn’t make any sense, does it?” I said.

My daughter was stricken. “I don’t understand. Why would people hate us just because we are Jewish? Mom, that’s racist! It’s racist to hate people just because they are Jewish or black or gay or whatever. I mean, let people be people!”

“You are absolutely correct. And it makes me so very sad, but I can’t let that sadness overpower me or the hate wins. I have to be strong. WE have to be strong. What can we do to fight the hate?”

“Overpower it with kindness,” said my nine-year-old son.

“Be proud of being Jewish!” said my nine-year-old daughter.

I root myself to the ground with my children. We stand tall and proud.

“Yes, and yes!” I replied. “And you know what I am going to do in eight days to help fight hate? I’m going to vote.”

“How does that fight hate?”

“I will vote for people who will not tolerate the hate. I will vote for people who will not encourage the growth of hate with careless words. Words are very powerful.”

My daughter pounded her fist on the table. “Stand up for Jewish rights! Stand up for all people’s rights! We have to get everyone we know to fight the hate!”

We root ourselves to the ground with our village. We will continue to grow strong with our Eitz Chaim, our Tree of Life.

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