~Thursday, May 15, 2014

Safe and Sound

Auth note: I had originally written this in October 2013, but I didn't publish it because I thought I was being morose or overly dramatic. Then during Passover, a man affiliated with the KKK walked into a Jewish community center in Kansas city and killed two people. Then he crossed the street and entered a Jewish assisted-living center and killed another person. My brother-in-law knew people trapped inside the JCC during the shooting. I no longer feel dramatic, just sickened.

There is this man who lives adjacent to Abraham and me. This man regularly dresses like Uncle Sam and stands on the side of the road with a JESUS LOVES YOU sign. All he does is wave, point to the person driving, and point to the sign. Jesus loves you!

It's hard to reconcile when you've decided to convert to Judaism.

I'm terrfied for the day when he points to me and then points to his sign. I'm afraid for the day I'll have to say no thanks. And I'm afraid for the look on his face when he learns that he lives next to a couple of Jews.

I think he'll be okay. He preaches love. He's always smiling and waving at the mailbox. Abraham is annoyed by him, but I think the world could use more of him. People whose primary message is love.

He's not like the preachers who would stand on corners of my college campus with signs that told us all we were going to hell. That man would point to a girl wearing a spaghetti-strapped shirt on a hot, spring day, point to his Bible, and condemn her to hell for dressing like a prostitute. The girl kept her head down as she hurried to higher education, her bookbag pounding against her back.

As a Christian I was incensed by this man. I wanted to run up to him and shove him. Yes, an eye for an eye, but did he stop reading the Bible he was thumping before he got to the New Testament? Did he not know about love and acceptance? Jesus dined with a prostitute.

Safety was an early discussion at my Derech Torah class. "We live in a post-9/11 world," the rabbi teaching the class warned us. Synagogues hire armed police to protect Jews as they attend High Holiday services. The building that houses our class is behind an 8-foot tall fence with a security gate with a security guard with surveillance cameras and buzzed entry into the building with a sign-in desk. Their budget could afford heightened security or mezuzahs (a religious symbol) on every door; they forwent the religious symbol. When we met with a rabbi to see if he would marry us, once again we had to appear on video cameras and get buzzed into the synagogue. The doors are always locked.

Abraham doesn't think much of this because it's what he's always known. For me though, it's alarming. I never thought twice about Easter or Christmas services--I'm not even sure I locked the car doors--but now I smile politely at the man with the gun as I enter the doors of a synagogue. Who would want to hurt a bunch of people minding their own business?

I felt threatened by the men with the signs on my college campus when, in the broadest sense of the term, I was one of them.

What would they do to me now?