Six Months Later

Jessica Daninhirsch reflects on the Tree of Life shooting in October, only six months apart from another shooting in San Diego.

April 27th was a peaceful day. I spent the day cleaning my room and walking my dog. However, I kept in mind that today was the six-month anniversary of the Tree of Life shooting. I thought about how far we’ve come since then, and I realized that nothing has changed. At all.

I came back from a walk with my dog, and I went back upstairs to keep cleaning my room. It was 4:05 P.M. My mom came upstairs. She stood on the steps and told me that just a few hours before, there had been another synagogue shooting, across the country in San Diego. My legs instantly began to shake. I felt weak and lightheaded. Empty.

Today, of all days. Precisely six months ago, on October 27th, 2018, our lives were changed forever from a horrible act of violence and anti-Semitism in our own city. In my own Jewish community. We lost eleven beautiful souls. My family knew one of them personally, and I had met two of the others a few years ago. And this all happened on Shabbat. The holy day. Well, guess what? April 27th was also Shabbat. And it is still Passover. Passover is one of the holiest Jewish holidays there is. I was thinking about Tree of Life today, and now I’m reliving it.

Although I am currently writing this without any knowledge of how many fatalities there are (since reports have not come out yet), even just one would be too many. How hard is it to understand that guns have absolutely no place in a place of worship? Whether it be a synagogue, a church, a mosque, anywhere. Guns do not belong in our society anymore.

What I don’t understand about America is why we are not doing anything. After the shooting at the Christchurch Mosque in New Zealand, it did not even take ten days for their gun laws and regulations to be reviewed and changed. But there were around 350 shootings in America in 2018 alone. It is only the fourth month of 2019, and there have already been around 70 shootings. There have only been about 20 or 25 in all of New Zealand’s history, and after just one shooting in this modern era, they jumped at the opportunity to change their policies. What is making America go blind to all the violence here? What is taking so long to make a change? People are dying. And they are being ignored.

I live near the police shooting practice range in North Park. Sometimes I can hear them practice. But after the Pittsburgh shooting, whenever I heard gunshots at the shooting range, I could not trust them. There was no way of knowing where they came from. One day I was walking my dog when I heard them, and I ran back to my house as fast as I could. I am fifteen years old, and I am furious that I have to grow up in this wicked society. A society in which I don’t know if I am safe. Something could be taken from me in an instant just from the pull of a trigger. I am mad that the children of my generation are growing up in this society. But at least we can see the problem. The children are acting like adults and the adults are acting like children. The only thing this is doing is fueling my writing.

The tree of life is an important symbol in Jewish culture. It represents so much, including life, love, heritage, and peace. But now, when I hear “tree of life,” I think of the shooting. You can name a place, like Parkland, San Bernardino, Christchurch, and now San Diego, and instead of thinking of what it is, you think of the shooting that happened. That list is increasing, too. And it has to stop. I want the tree of life to be a symbol of life and peace again, but it will never be the same.

A few reports have come out now. My heart goes out to the Chabad of Poway synagogue in San Diego, and with refuah shlema, I pray that the rabbi and the children who were injured heal quickly. And I pray that the one who died, Lori Gilbert Kaye, rests in peace. She died protecting the rabbi, Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein. She did not deserve this whatsoever. Now she is just another number in a statistic. But she was a human being. She was a living soul.

“Dayenu” means “enough.” It is a song that is sung during Passover. Passover is the reminder of when Jews escaped from slavery in Egypt. Dayenu is what they sang when they fought for their freedom. They had had enough. Well, so have I. Once again, I ask, when will enough finally be enough?

Today, I am asking more. I want you, reading this, to call your senators. Attend protest rallies (peacefully). Heck, even write to the president. Do whatever you can to make a change and get everyone in Washington to actually look at our gun laws and regulations and fix them so we can finally live in a society where children will not fear going to school, and families will not fear going to their places of worship. Save a life. Make a change. Do something. Do not turn a blind eye to the tragedies happening every day. Say her name: Lori Gilbert Kaye. Dayenu.

April 27th, 2019


Read Jessica’s previous article on the Tree of Life here