My School

The Sabes JCC received a bomb threat today, one of at least 32 Jewish Community Centers to receive such a threat, nine days after 16 JCCs were threatened with bombs on January 9.

I wrote about it for the newspaper I work for. There is a day school at the JCC, and I interviewed a girl who was in the day school and was evacuated. She described seeing little children, participants in the JCC's early childhood program. They had been swimming, and were outside the JCC in swim suits and bare feet, still wet from having been pulled from the pool. Older children gave them jackets and carried them across the snow.

This was my school. Not this particular day school, but an earlier one, a high school called Maimonides that was in the Sabes JCC back in the 1980s. And it was my school even earlier than that, when I was very little. I would go to summer school at the JCC.

This is how terrorism works. It's not just the threat of violence. The previous bomb threats were all hoaxes, and I expected this would be as well. But there doesn't need to be actual violence for it to be terrorism. There doesn't even need to be terror.

There just needs to be something like this. Something that reaches out and finds a place that is important and expresses contempt for it. Whether or not there was any actual bomb, members of Minneapolis' Jewish Community were sent a message, and the message was, simply, you are hated.

There is sometimes actual violence, which is why local Jewish organizations take it very seriously -- I know of at least one local synagogue that has a safe room in case of an active shooter. There was a member of the local Jewish community, Pamela Waechter, who was shot to death in the Seattle Jewish Federation in 2006. I remember Pamela. She was active in the Minneapolis Jewish Community before she moved away. A lot of us remember her, and so synagogues have safe rooms.

Sometimes people represent their hate for us through acts of violence, and sometimes through symbolic acts of violence, through threats of violence. They target the people we care about and the places we care about in order to make our world less steady, to remind us that the ground we stand on is not so very solid, our place in the universe is not so very fixed.

The terror here is not just that our Jewish Community Centers might explode with children inside them, although that's not a fear that we can simply dismiss. It is also that there are still people out there who hate us enough to make us fear for our children. There are people who hate us enough to want to unsettle us, to remind us that we are still not accepted, not entirely. They seek out the places where this message stings the most. They threaten to bomb my childhood school. They kill my neighbor.

I see them online, prodding for the places that hurt. They go after Jewish people on social media, women in particular. They place these Jews' faces on old antisemitic cartoons. They grasp for old antisemitic canards and cast them out like they still have currency. They Photoshop Jews into gas chambers. They resurrect old hate language and breathe new life into it. And they keep poking, poking, searching for the thing that stings, the thing that gets the reaction.

Like Jews need more of it. Like it doesn't hurt me enough to remember that Pam Waechter is dead, like that doesn't destabilize me every time I think of it, so more must be added. Are we supposed to be brave in the face of this? Are we supposed to stiffen our backs and not admit that this hurts? It hurts me just to know people want to hurt me. They need do nothing more. All that's required is the desire to injure me for being Jewish, and I am already knocked off my feet.

So here I stand, within walking distance of the Sabes JCC, but with unsteady ground between here and there. But what can we do? We have to cross that ground, regardless of how much it might seem like it might buck and bend under us.

There are children shivering in the cold, and we must carry them.