The Space between us
Dedicated to eradicating hate crimes against religious groups
When it’s one of us, it’s all of us. In a world so obsessed with labels and sub-divisions, there are moments that remind us that we are one community. When the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting happened, we knew as Jews and as writers and as artists we had to respond. It was our community, it was a six hour drive away, it was our country.
But then not even six months later, our brethren were viciously attacked half a world away. The shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand was something we could have shrugged off. We could have let it become another community’s tragedies, even as more attacks are perpetrated.
But we did not. We would not.
When it’s one of us, it’s all of us. This was what we put on the board when we asked our staff to react to these tragedies, as well as the number of people who were murdered in Charleston, Pittsburgh and New Zealand. What you are about to read are their responses.
We are all human beings. The spaces between us are those that we impose. This is our space to remember that.
When it’s one of us, it’s all of us.
Note to Self
By Allison Gellerstein
I forgive you.
Three words to your three. (I’m sorry). They're easy enough to say.
It's harder, though, to forget that my chest constricts when I think about the things you did. It's like there's a pit between my lungs that pricks me every time I breath. It's a grief that sharpens as I cry.
What you did is in the past, but I don't know how to get around it. Sisyphus's rock will always tumble back down. What happened happened, despite all the alternative realities I could play out in my mind. I don't want to keep my head up with the clouds and the peak of Sisyphus's mountain. I want tomorrow to be better for all of us, stuck with our feet on the ground.
I've had enough of treating myself like a victim. You may be the villain but carrying your weight along with me is too much. Atlas carried the weight of the world, but it's not my burden to bear. Instead I'll treat you as someone who made a mistake. That mistake had real consequences, but what's a mistake if not a decision gone wrong.
I've had enough of feeling wrong all the time. It's like kicking a pebble along the road as I walk. There's no purpose, no end goal in dragging that weight with me. In the end I'll lose track of the pebble anyway, so I'll just forgive you now. Save myself the heartache in between.
You just are.
Apologies and all.
I forgive you.
By Seela Langer
before the fatality number hit fifty
when it was still at an uneven forty-nine
immediately my mind cast back
to three years ago
and another batch of tears
and another forty-nine graves
those much closer to home
half a country away
not half a world
but orlando and new zealand are just far away places
my heart bleeds for pulse
i pray tears for christchurch
everyday i wake up to war
one on every different piece of my identity
i get torn apart by the world
it takes a bite out of me
i get spit upon
if i want to put on armor
i’d have to lose the body i am trying to protect
back then i wrote pages and angry pages
my reaction is not as hot now
now i am expertly equipped to deal with pain
i’ve seen bigger numbers
cried more tears
wrote more words
until i stopped
sometimes i don’t have the troops to fight
and we are losing more everyday
but i refuse to beg for my life
refuse to bow to you
i love God but you say He hates me
you hate God but you say worship the star
i asked my mother once if i would ever be safe
all of me
ever loved because of who i am
she told me not to ask
‘you won’t like the answer’
By Mia Hahn
How many must we go through
Until we unite
Under the human race
How long will it take
Until we realize
That this is not the natural order
Why should we live through fear
And constantly walk under our shadows
Why do the ones on top
Demand the lives of those below them
When will the time come
When we can finally stick together
When do I have to stop turning the corner
Wondering if someone is staring
At my kippah
At my burka
At my cross
At my turban
Towards my goals
Towards my meaning
Towards my life
Towards my feelings
Because in the end
It’s all of us
The Connection Between Us
By Chava Nagel
Even though we may all seem apart there is something that holds us together. There is some invisible force that binds us to one another. We are drawn to each other.
Connections are formed before we are even born. We are born into a world where two people love us blindly without even knowing our identities. They care for us no matter who we become. This act of kindness is what shapes children into loving adults who do the same for the next child. Families connect and build each other up in an ongoing cycle.
Connections are formed when people bond with each other. At very young ages children interact with each other and serve as each others’ role models. Laughter rings throughout the hallways of schools, where children partake in an important part of life, where they meet extraordinary individuals. We learn from the others around us, and the people we choose to spend our time with build our character. Friendships form and show us who we are.
Connections are formed when people put faith in each other. Faith is the trust we put in one another. Faith is the safety provided for each other. Faith is the comfort we give during hard times. At the end of the day we rely on our peers. People revolve around others. When one of us is down is when the connection becomes stronger. Tragedy reminds us that we need each other. A death is when we band together. We are connected.
By Brooke Kohl
The numbers nine and eleven already carry so much pain
Why add more?
What joy comes from stealing lives?
The number fifty has in the past been innocent
Why taint it now?
What joy comes from killing so many?
Seventy people dead
Seventy people to add to the ever-growing list
of people murdered
And for what reason?
The number seventy used to carry so much happiness
Why turn it bittersweet?
What joy comes from tearing apart our world?
We are threatened
Can we really feel safe?
Seventy, plus countless others
whose breaths have long been gone
We must stay strong
And stay together
We are all affected by tragedies of others
Everyone’s pain is our own
In the wake of seventy tragedies
We need hope
We must shoulder the sky together
And bear all the burdens in this world
When It's One of Us It's All of Us
By Adina Bak
People always seem to be in a hurry. Where are they going? Are they even trying to rush somewhere, or are they trying to avoid wasting time? Stop, look in the ocean of kids swarming the halls: one person’s view on life is about to change. They will never be the same. The bell rings spreading the message that the students hurry to class where they never have learned a single lesson of life.
As a foreign animal trying to enter a pack, Jacob tries to meet his peers. He longs to smile or even make eye contact, but alas he can’t. He feels a strong invisible barrier around himself as he goes from class to class. He isn’t just an ordinary new kid. He wears the symbol of his religion. He doesn't hide it, though he wish he did.
He sits down at lunch outside by himself and takes out his lunch from home since he can’t eat the food from the school that the other kids eat.
A tall kid with a very cruel voice says “Hey you!”
Jacob looks up with hope that he is about to make his first new friend. The boy grabs Jacob's symbol and throws in on the ground. Then Jacobs stands up in an attempt to defend himself only to find that he’s surrounded by three boys.
The other one says, “Who do you think you are? Think you’re special?”
“Give it back,” he says.
“Why don’t you go ask your God for help?” says the first boy as he pushes him on to the pavement.
The boys start kicking him. Jacob tastes his bitter blood.
“Stop it!” someone cries out.
“What did he do to you?” says another.
The boys stop kicking and look up. They are surrounded by hundreds of kids.
Jacob looks up to see the mob coming to rescue him. He isn’t sure if it was just his imagination, but he can’t believe what he was seeing. Every kid has a symbol, but most didn’t have Jacob’s symbol. Some had a star, some had a cross, some had peace, some had a moon. In the end it doesn’t matter which symbol they have. When it’s one of us, it’s all of us.
We're in this Together
By Allison Gellerstein
What can I offer you but stale coffee and saccharine words
Fresh coffee might help
But my words won’t do you any good
I can give you my shadow
a presence in the void
Your hand held in mine near your heart
We’re in this together
But you are lost in a faraway world
So I’m left to just stand by your side
They ask us a question
How will this change us
We’re coming together hopefully
Maybe as one we can do something
All I can do is stand next you
Never leaving your side
All the stability I can offer
I ask myself a question
What am I going to do
The answer comes hard
It seems you are begging to know
Where do I stand
I stand next to you
With fresh coffee in hand
Which is change enough for now
As I give you a silence in which you can grieve