Jessie Atkin
author, procrastinator, nerd, twin
author of We Are Savages

Jessie Atkin


In Broad Daylight: What I Believe

Posted by Jessie on March 2, 2017 at 6:30 PM

This time it is my city. This time it is my community. This time it is my people. This time it is not my family. I am lucky it is not my family, as I was lucky when it happened in St. Louis, and Philadelphia, and not here. But I am writing now when perhaps I should have written then because, the truth is, it may not have been my city, but it was always someone's community. Someone's family. And, especially now, should we not speak out in compassion, in solidarity, in understanding?

Headstones were toppled in a Jewish cemetery in Rochester, New York last night. And I felt a personal fury that did not seem to be shared by those around me. It should always matter when the resting place for any particular community is desecrated, but this time, once again, it was the resting place of Jews, so it is from my Jewish perspective that I will speak.

At the end of a Jewish funeral mourners at the cemetery walk passed the grave and, with the blade of the shovel upside down so that the dirt will fall more gently, cover the casket with the first layer of earth. The departed is once more, and for the last time, covered by loving hands. This is a mitzvah, a good deed, but of a special kind. It is a deed that can never be repaid. It is a "Chesed Shel Emet." And when anyone goes to a cemetery and topples the headstones of the dead they are acting against everything that is a "Chesed Shel Emet." They are not performing a mitzvah that can never be repaid; their act is the inverse, attacking those who can never fight back.

Bullies are known for going after those they perceive as weak, or different, and how can you be more of a bully than by attacking the deceased? That's not power, that's fear. Fear of standing up to proclaim what you really believe. Fear of facing someone who can show you that you are wrong. Fear of facing the truth behind your hate, or ignorance, or anti-Semitism. But I'm not afraid to proclaim what I believe. I believe that there are far more people who will prop up those headstones than there are those who knocked them down. I believe they will be repaired in broad daylight where the world can see that it is not just one or two Jews, but a community of all races and creeds repairing and working together.

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1 Comment

Reply Randi. Fox Tabb
9:38 AM on March 3, 2017 
I totally agree Jessie. I didn't know this had happened when I popped into the synagogue to say hello. When I heard the news, later in the day, I was once again, outraged. Earlier in the week, my grandson's day school had experienced a bomb threat. These are the acts of bullies and cowards. I hope that these cowards can be located and prosecuted and the country can learn that this is not going to be tolerated. So frustrated and sad. This is not the value I have in being an American. Thank you for speaking out in your eloquent way.