I’m Going to Synagogue This Weekend Because I’m Not Afraid

I grew up both as a Jew and a Pittsburgher to varying degrees. Both are important parts of my identity, but both are easily forgotten in my day-to-day life. My family hasn’t been very religious for generations. My mom grew up going to Rodef Shalom, a Reform synagogue in Pittsburgh, and my dad grew up Catholic but eventually chose to be chosen. I was raised in Dallas, but we spent all of our holidays and summers in Pittsburgh, together with both my Jewish and Italian cousins. We weren’t so different from many families in Pittsburgh, a city filled with so many rich communities that exist and mingle together.

Judaism has always been in the background of my life. We always celebrated the High Holidays as a family. My sisters and my cousins and I grew up going to Sunday and Hebrew School together in Dallas. We each had bat mitzvah ceremonies, and I kept going to Sunday School through confirmation. But as I got older, Judaism became less of a weekly part of my life. During college I was obviously still Jewish, but I didn’t go to services — that was for religious people!

These days, I maybe go to services two or three times a year, not including the High Holidays. But then a horrible crime targeted the Jewish community. I suddenly feel intensely drawn to synagogue, and I’m planning on going to services this Friday, the first Shabbat since the Pittsburgh massacre.

And I’m not alone. In fact, an entire movement has formed called #ShowUpForShabbat. Started by the American Jewish Committee, the social media campaign is a direct response to what happened in Pittsburgh, encouraging Jews who might not otherwise regularly attend services to do so this week in an act of solidarity.

Personally, I feel the need to show the world that we as a Jewish people aren’t afraid to practice our religion, that we exist and that we won’t be extinguished by hate, by anti-Semitism. I have worn my Star of David every day since the murders. I am proud to be Jewish. Judaism, to me, means being part of a larger community that comes together in both times of struggle and great joy. Sadly, right now we need to join together for the former. Hate cannot and should not keep us from our places of worship.

I am lucky to live in the “bubble” of Manhattan, where we like to believe that anti-Semitic hate crimes won’t happen because there are just so many of us here. But Pittsburgh taught me a lesson I probably should have already known: that we as Jewish people are never truly safe. But we can’t be afraid to go to synagogue, or to live our lives Jewishly.

When the gunman opened fire at Tree of Life Synagogue last Saturday, he was not just attacking the people at services that day, but also our way of life. This Friday, I am going to services because Irving Younger, Melvin Wax, Rose Mallinger, Bernice and Sylvan Simon, Jerry Rabinowitz, Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Daniel Stein, and brothers Cecil and David Rosenthal will never be able to again. I want to be there to say the Mourner’s Kaddish to remember their legacy. I want to show the shooter and people like him that we can’t be wiped out, that our faith cannot be extinguished by gunfire.

And so I will show up.

Alexandra Pucciarelli

Alexandra Pucciarelli is a writer based in New York. She received her BA from Sarah Lawrence College and is currently a graduate student of the sociology of collective memory and trauma at the New School for Social Research. She has written for Tablet Magazine, The L Magazine, Blood + Milk, and Brooklyn Magazine.

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