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A Bag Tag by Any Other Name...

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MomMoAidanBdayA Jewish mother's perspective on these terrible times... 

As many of you know, I am Jewish. My father owned a bagel bakery in an Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn, New York, and while I grew up in a diverse community of Jews, Catholics, Protestants, Indians, and Asians, and many other religions and cultures that make up the amazing concoction that is New York, being Jewish was never something that made me uncomfortable in my own world.

And yet, a few days ago, my husband said something to me that made me stop and take pause.

Given the state of affairs in Israel and Gaza these past weeks, it's no wonder he said what he said, which made me stop and think:

Just two weeks ago, my family and I traveled to Florida to visit my mother. The children each had backpacks filled with books, pads of drawing paper and markers and snacks to keep them busy (and out of our hair) on the plane. Since we have three kids and things easily get lost or misplaced in the house and during the morning dash out the door, I label everything. I mean everything (shoes, lunchboxes, pencil cases, you name it).

So, it should come as no surprise that each of their backpacks are labeled. After we had returned from our trip, my husband mentioned to me that while we were at the airport, he noticed that one of our boys had a name tag on his backpack: one side said Aidan on it and the other said Hebrew School on the back of the tag.

My husband, also sensitive to the terrible news coming out of the Middle East (and blasting at decibel level 500 on CNN from the TV monitors at our gate), felt suddenly uneasy about being in an international airport, and in unfamiliar territory and moreover, surprisingly uncomfortably about those previously innocent bag tags. So he did something he never would have thought of doing before: he removed the tag and stuffed it into his pocket.

Once he shared the story and we talked about it, we were both at a loss for words. How did we - American Jews - come to this crossroads in our own country? In Boston? At Logan Airport?

Neither of us are strangers to Anti-Semitism. Even though we were both born in New York and have lived in cites with large and robust Jewish populations - (Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, to name a few), we have both encountered our fair share of sideways glances and seeing people elbow their friends. Haven't people learned that even when you think others aren't looking you can always tell when someone is doing this?

Now and then when they figure out that we are Jewish, it's as if that has forced a shift in the conversation or social dynamic. I once had a date tell me I didn't "sound Jewish" but to this day I'm still  not sure what he meant considering (in the spirit of full disclosure, I might add) that at that time I was still sporting quite a sizable New York accent.

Watching the news these days, especially with young children in the house, requires superhuman manual dexterity. Watching unspeakable images of children covered in their own blood (Palestinian, Israeli...does it matter? A child is a child is a child!) being hoisted onto an ambulances is enough to make any parent pounce on the remote to change channels as fast as humanly possible.

The pictures are horrifying. I find it impossible to believe that any human being could use a child as a human shield - my mind simply cannot accept this as reality. I do not know how the Middle East will ever establish peace. I do not know how Palestinians and Jews will one day live side by side in freedom and equality but I pray for it nonetheless.

I wonder, naively, stupidly perhaps, but I wonder nonetheless how a cease fire can go into effect and and bombs and rockets can stop for even a few blessed hours - but not permanently.  If they can stop at all, then surely they can stop, period.

Until Next Time,


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