I just had to say it somewhere, to someone. I didn’t realize it until I opened a news article and saw photos of the beautiful synagogue my family used to attend when we lived in Southern California, when I was young. We went there because the town we lived in did not have a synagogue, and was very openly antisemitic and discriminatory towards us, the only Jewish family in town. Chabad of Poway was a safe space for us until we moved to a better area. I have beautiful and happy memories from there.
I stopped practicing and believing in God years ago. But now, remembering my experience alongside this tragedy, the only thing that feels right to do is pray. The only way to express how I feel, the only way to give words and substance and movement to my emotions about this, is to pray. My feelings of grief, loss, despair, anger, sadness, and hopelessness would otherwise be too much to bear. Chabad of Poway was a light in the darkness of my childhood, which was filled with antisemitic violence and hate. And now that those memories have been tainted too… I feel truly broken for the first time in my life.