The first thing I saw was a post made by one of my close friends from International Kallah. His grandfather was murdered in his own synagogue. Another one of my friends from my council’s grandparents managed to hide. Immediately after, I saw Jews from all around the United States posting info and their remarks about the shooting. My friends were scared. I was enraged yet silent. I didn’t know what to do. But I knew that i wanted to do something, to help. I posted updates on my Instagram and Snapchat about what happened, and encouraging my friends to wear blue. I was hurt when I walked into school the next day and and there was no solidarity. I was lacking the safety and support I needed from the greater community.
Was it too short notice? Did anyone outside the Jewish Community see the shooting on the news? Or maybe, did anyone outside the Jewish Community care. That day I got a notification from Facebook: Join the Richmond Community in a Night of Unity to share condolence and find comfort in the community. I thought that maybe a hundred people would show up.
I volunteered to help organize and set up the event, There would be more than 10 congregation leaders, and the congresswoman elect would be attending. I picked up one of my AITs and arrived 2 hours early to help. There were already more than a hundred people there. As we cracked on our glow sticks and stood to direct the crowd, something felt off. This building where I’ve come every week to experience and run programs for 4 years has become a meeting place for something more. When I saw the parking lot and adjacent lots and neighborhoods filled, people of every age, faith, race, and gender, I felt safe. We packed in close and I found my chapter and sister chapter near the front. For the first time I wore my Star of David necklace outside from under my shirt. One of the Rabbis’ there said something that stuck with me: “Evil is not its own entity. It is merely an absence of good, just as darkness is an absence of light.” I thought back to Kallah and how everything seemed so long ago. I had never in my lifetime been impacted by anti-semitism in this way, it hurt because this was something that directly affected my BBYO family. But although we had to meet under such sad circumstances, I was truly proud to be a part of my community.
Michael Stein is an Aleph from Eastern Region: Virginia Council who is currently serving as his Council S'gan and loves goldfish.
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