April 18, 2024
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April 18, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

I remain heartbroken. I remain angry at and dumbfounded by equivocation. I remain on edge, wondering if/when all the hostages will finally be returned safely. I wonder how we can ever move forward from this—how can the world not just burst into flames with the level of hatred and barbarism we saw in the atrocities of October 7?

And I have remained concerned about what it can mean when my pain prevents me from seeing that of others. I have noticed the trauma overshadowing my empathy. I have worried about how we and our multicultural neighbors can build bridges over hurt and division, which I see as critical for the ultimate future of our world.

In the midst of all of this, last week, we received a handwritten card from our religious Muslim neighbors. (They delivered them to multiple neighbors.) It read:

“In light of the tragedies occurring in the world today that are impacting all of us, we just wanted to let you know that despite whatever differences we may have, we are grateful to have you as our neighbors. Your safety is our safety, your honor & dignity is our honor & dignity, and your children are our children. Hoping for a better tomorrow.”

This was totally unexpected. I had actually been worrying/wondering what this family was thinking over the prior week. We don’t know them well but had shared fun occasions together over the past few years, like block parties and organizing around other neighborhood issues. I’d been grateful to have the opportunities to build bridges with them (and their beautiful children) over the past few years, and was worried—do they care about what just happened to Jews? Do they think we blame them for what happened (which we don’t)? My husband and I were so moved to receive their card. Their words certainly don’t say or imply that they agree with us about Israel, and I don’t think they do. But their grace in proactively making a human connection across that divide is what is so inspirational to me.

I hope that even as we allow ourselves to feel all the feelings right now and dedicate ourselves to healing our own brothers and sisters here, and in Israel, we can also all take inspiration from this and spare some of our energy, when we are able, to build bridges across ideological and religious divisions, too. I’m so grateful to our neighbors for taking this first step. We wrote them a note back, accompanied by an apple crumble, saying this:

“In such a dark time, your grace and kindness in reaching out to us is a powerful ray of light. We are deeply grateful for that gesture, and grateful that you are our neighbors. It feels insufficient to repeat back that we feel the same way as your card so beautifully expressed, but we do—your children are our children, your safety is our safety, your dignity is our dignity. As we pray for safety, freedom, dignity, and peace for everyone in this hurting world, we thank you for this beacon of hope. We have been thinking of you, and we look forward to other joyful times together in the future.”

Rachel Chalmer
Teaneck

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