Sacred spaces should be safe spaces

As a Jew, I know antisemitism is always lurking. This feeling makes me wait a bit before revealing my religion to others. This feeling makes me glad to have an Anglo name on my birth certificate, as opposed to the Yiddish one I use during religious occasions. This feeling makes me fear how my children will be treated. This feeling makes me wonder, deep in the back of my mind, if anything might happen when I’m gathered with other Jews.

I try not to think about what might happen when I attend a prayer service or drop my child off at Hebrew School. I know the odds are good at will just be another, uneventful day. I’m sure that’s how the congregants at the Poway synagogue near San Diego felt when they gathered for Sabbath prayers.


They weren’t thinking about being attacked for their religion. Sure, many probably experienced their fair share of antisemitism, there may even have been some Holocaust survivors in attendance, but on that day, they were not in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany, they were in America in a synagogue, many miles and many years from one of history’s darkest hours. They were there to worship, to praise G-d, to mourn the loss of loved ones and to share in the communal joy of being with other Jews.

News of the Poway synagogue shooting was another reminder of how much I am hated just because of my heritage. How I am not worthy of this world. How my religion makes me a monster. How I am part of some evil entity trying to destroy the world.

It is reminder that this is how bigots see my children.

My beautiful, innocent children are seen as unworthy because they were born into a different faith. They spent the first years of life unaware of this sad truth.

I can’t shelter them forever.

Back in October, my eldest overheard me talking about the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. He is very aware of his Jewishness and what that means in the world. My youngest is still blissfully unaware, and I am hanging on to his joy and hoping the day we no longer have to fear being Jewish comes soon.

Until then, I am going to be a little grateful for those police officers who take on the task of protecting our synagogues. I will accept when our once welcoming communities, might be hesitant to let strangers into their doorways.

I will do all this, while praying and acting to affect change to make our country a place where all can practice their religion without fear.

Whether Jew, Christian, Muslim, Secular Humanist, Wiccan, etc., we all deserve to feel comfortable in our synagogues, churches, mosques, temples or wherever else we are called to pray.

No matter how you worship, sacred spaces should be safe spaces.

A version of this post originally appeared on my Facebook page.

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