In the wake of Hamas’s horrific attack on Israel, several friends and colleagues expressed their concern and solidarity with me as a Jew. Their gestures were deeply appreciated, as they reminded me that caring and respect still exist in a world sometimes overwhelmed by acts of hatred and cowardice.
I am not a practicing Jew, but my genetic roots trace back to Ashkenazi Jewry. My grandparents came from Ukraine and its surroundings. As a child, our monthly “Cousins Club get-togethers brought our family together for good food and stories from the old country and new. Not that I needed more proof, but my 23andMe results tell me I am 99.5% Jewish.
This is a bond I hold close to my heart, even though I’ve distanced myself from the religion. Instead, I find spirituality in nature’s wonders rather than men’s teachings. I attribute much of the world’s hatred to organized religion, a sentiment brewing since my early years.
When my friends reached out, I told them that, sadly, I’m not surprised by anything that happens anymore. While this attack feels more personal, it still leaves me feeling like I did when Russia invaded Ukraine or when Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people at Marjory Stone Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. It’s numbing and disheartening to realize that my ability to be resilient in the face of global hatred is compromised.
Responding to these global events is difficult. Like many others, I grapple with the best way to cope and determine the best actions. Several Jewish friends and family post on Facebook that they are “not okay” and need more support and connection. Others analyze what is happening and pursue relevant information to help them understand the situation. Sometimes, I think I should head to Kyiv or Tel Aviv and see what I can contribute. Comedian Pete Davidson suggested that humor could be a pathway to sanity in his heartfelt opening to Saturday Night Live this past weekend.
One of my teachers, Cynthia Winton Henry, emphasized the importance of discerning where we gather information. Mainstream media, cable news, and social platforms bombard us with distressing stories designed to ignite our nervous system. These actions activate our amygdala and heighten our stress levels. Cynthia recommends seeking firsthand accounts and analyses on platforms like Substack. In addition, she pointed me to the Center for Countering Digital Hate and their post, How to navigate disinformation and propaganda and to practice information resilience.
For now, I am making donations, engaging in meaningful conversations with others, heading to the gym, and taking contemplative walks in the woods, meditating on themes as varied as righteous revenge, hope, and fairness for all sides.
And if anyone is interested, I’ve got a joke about a Priest, Imam, and Rabbi who all went out to play golf together.
© Richard Citrin 2023