Rabbi Melinda Mersack: All My Children Will Ever Know

Walking through the metal detector at the Yom Ha’Atzmaut celebration, I thought to myself, “Funny how just a few years ago, we never would have experienced this.”  My children, 5, 7, and 9 years old, see security all the time.  All our synagogue doors and Jewish agency doors are locked.  You need to buzz and state your name to the camera, before you are allowed entrance.  This is the only world my children will ever know.

I remember when synagogue was a safe place.  I never worried about anyone bringing in a gun or explosives.  I never heard the words “terrorist attack,” unless of course, it pertained to Israel.  But, not in this country.  Not in my home.  Not in my synagogue, my school, nowhere within the community I knew.  All my children will ever know, is that we need a police presence to “make sure everything is ok and that everyone is safe.”

At least, that is what I tell them.  I don’t tell them about the ignorant people who hate us simply because we are Jewish.  I don’t tell them about those who distort their own religious beliefs in an effort to destroy others who aren’t like them.  I don’t tell them about the evil that persists in the world.  I only tell them that “we are safe.”  Of course, safety is relative.

They have asked me, “Why is our country at war?”  “Who was Osama bin Laden?”  “Why do they hate us?”  I do not lie to them.  I answer in age-appropriate ways, sharing just enough to satisfy their need to know.  What can I really say other than, “There is no need to worry.”  And, yet, I do tell them to be cautious of strangers and not to leave their brothers alone when they visit a public restroom or run with their friends in the neighborhood.  I walk that fine line, trying to prepare them for the realities of life without terrifying them.  But, we can’t be prepared for everything.

I know we all experience tragedy.  For me, it was losing my mother to cancer way before her time.  And then following her death, my father was so terrified of being alone that he made unwise, disturbing choices that separated him from his family, resulting in my losing him, too.  A father I was once very close to.  It is difficult learning to mourn a father who is still living.

I know that everyone’s life experiences are different.  They challenge us, they strengthen us.  They shape who we are and who we will become.  For my children, it will be no different.  Nor do I want to protect them from that journey.  I have hope and faith that my husband and I are building a healthy foundation upon which they will make their choices and live their lives.  And, yet, I can’t help but worry about the tragedies they will face and hope that it will not tarnish them, nor spoil them to the beauty in the world.

I think about my children’s future.  Their children’s future.  And, I’m scared.  I worry.  What will their world look like?  Will it be safer than yesterday, or worse than today?  I fear for the state of the world, and I’m concerned for my children’s personal well-being.

Only one thing is certain.  All my children will ever know is that I love them.  They are my priority.  In a world with such uncertainty, this one thing is certain.  It is everlasting.  I tell them that my number one job, my privilege, is to take care of them and keep them safe.  God willing, I will succeed. God willing, we will all succeed in making tomorrow better, and safer than today.


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