My Bio

My Bio
My name is Sharon Levin and I've been reviewing children's literature for 20 years. I founded and run the Bay Area Children's Literature List. My biggest passion (outside my family) is getting books into the hands of children and teens. My favorite thing is getting non-readers to realize that they're readers. I also LOVE t-shirts that have to do with books or literature. As soon as I figure out how to do it, I'll have a click through on the above picture so you can see my entire collection (and where to get them).

November 5, 2018

Reaching out to Conservatives in My Life and Showing Up for Shabbat

Believe it or not, I do have Republicans in my life.  Not many, but some.  After the massacre at Tree of Life Synagogue, I felt that I would be complicit if I remained silent in the interest of friendship and/or family unity.  It's not that ANYBODY in my life has any doubts where I stand (I have been an outspoken liberal since I debated the death penalty with my mother when I was 7 years old) but I haven't directed my feelings straight at them.  I decided that needed to stop.

Here is what I sent (with an addition about the Kroger murders because I left the victims out, sigh):

Hi,

I am not sure how to start this.  I know that I have friends and family in my life, people I love, who vote very differently than I do.  For the most part, we don’t discuss politics because we know it will lead to bad feelings and unchanged minds and hearts.

But…. I can’t be silent any longer. 

A man who was inspired by Donald Trump’s nationalistic (aka white supremacy) speeches, rhetoric and actions walked into a synagogue during services and opened fire.  He opened fire on people joyfully celebrating a bris (ceremony for 8 day old boys) and worshipping G-d.  He SLAUGHTERED people who had actually survived Hitler’s Germany.  He listened to propaganda from Stormfront, a HATEFUL white supremacist organization whose sole goal is to get rid of all non-Christian people and all people of color.  Donald Trump and the current Republican administration support these beliefs.  They support them in what they say, they support them by making not so subtle hand gestures (white power sign), they support them in saying THE DAY AFTER THIS MASSACRE that the media, specifically CNN are the ‘enemies of the people’

And, consider, these ‘enemies of the people’:  CNN, and prominent Democrat politicians (a majority of whom are people of color) were targeted by a rabid, pro-Trump white supremacist bomber last week.  Trump’s response?  He held a rally and made jokes.  JOKES!!!

Last week we also had a shooting at a Kroger Grocery store in Kentucky.  The white shooter originally tried to get into a Black church, but the doors were locked, so he went looking for targets at the grocery store.  He found them and murdered Maurice Stallard, 69, and Vickie Lee Jones, 67. When confronted by a white man with a gun, the shooter, Gregory Bush literally said “Whites don’t kill whites” and walked away.

Look, none of you are dumb.  Honestly, I don’t have dumb friends (or family).  There is NO WAY to look at this spread of open hatred and violence and not see that the Republicans from the top down are fomenting this environment in our country.

You love me, Ismayil and our daughters, We love you and yours.  Please realize that my daughters are afraid for their lives because they’re Jewish. Realize also that they are afraid to go to temple, but too brave to let the bastards win.  This is not an imagined threat.  This is not hyperbole.  This is the present day United States.  We don’t have to be this way and we should NOT be this way. 

I am reaching out to you to do the right thing.  To stand by the principles of the country I still love.  Please, PLEASE cross the aisle to vote for Democrats this election.  The lives of those we love literally depend on it.

Much love,

Sharon

p.s.  I am ashamed that the first time I cried about the murders since 2016 was this Saturday.  I have been angry about other deaths, but I have not cried.  That is my own shortcoming.  That I was not inspired to write until ‘my people’ were slaughtered is something I have to deal with, and I will do better. 

p.p.s.  Please do feel free to share this letter as you see fit (but please do not forward it to those who will respond with threats)
-------

So, in my ever hopeful way, I thought that there was no way, NO WAY any decent person could still support the present administration.  It saddens and terrifies me to realize how wrong I was.






Of the friends and family members I sent this to, I only heard back from three. Well, to be fair, I only sent it to seven e-mails, like I said, I'm not close to a LOT of Republicans (two of whom are husband and wife) so that's actually a good return rate. Two of my friends said that they are Dems and are voting Dem (which honestly surprised me with one of them, but it was a happy surprise).

I heard from one family member (part of the married couple) who 1) was puzzled that I didn't like Trump, after all, his daughter is Jewish. 

Can I tell you how much this argument pisses me off?  My standard come back is that most misogynists are in relationships with women.  But honestly, look at what Trump says and does:   "globalist" is a white supremacist dogwhistle meaning Jew and Trump uses it all the time. 

and 2) He (my family member) can't cross the aisle because the Dems in Florida (where he votes) are too left wing for him. 

So, the Dems are too left wing, but the GOP candidate for governor calling his African American opponent a 'monkey' sits okay with you?

As I said before, this saddens and terrifies me.  How can thinking people of good intent, good faith (this man considers himself a staunch Catholic) support such heinous behavior?  This is why I'm so frightened, that people that I would (or perhaps I should change that to would HAVE, as in 'past tense') consider good human beings are so comfortable voting to support conditions that have correctly been pointed out as being very close to pre-concentration camp behavior in Hitler's Germany?

BUT, on the other hand, I went to #ShowUpForShabbat on Friday night and Saturday morning.  We had many non-temple members/people of other faiths, show up to support us.  In the beginning of the Friday night service, I noticed that many of us were jumpy.  We startled at noises, we looked around nervously.  But soon, we were singing V'SHAM'RU and toes were tapping at the fast parts and joy became part of the service.  We felt the love and support in the room and we were united.  Fear went away and strength and love came in.

We also mourned, and we mourned together.  Our rabbi had congregants with ties to the Pittsburgh area read a short eulogy for each of the people killed at the Tree of Life temple.  We sang

A TREE OF LIFE
Proverbs 3:18, 17; Lamentations 5:21
 
Etz chayim hee
lammachazikim bah,
v'tom'cheha m'ushar.
D'racheha dar'chey no'am,
v'chol n'tivoteha shalom.
Hashivenu Ad0nay,
elecha v'nashuva.
Chadesh yameynu k'kedem.

It [the Torah] is a tree of life
to those who cling to it,
and its supporters are happy.
Its ways are pleasant ways,
and all its paths are peace.
Return us, Ad0nay,
and we will return.
Renew our days as before.
Baruch Atah, Ad0nay,
0hev ammo, Yisra'El.

Blessed Y0u, Ad0nay,
L0ver of Y0ur people, Israel.
 
---
 
and, in doing so, we unified with Jews and all good people who were mourning with, and supporting, us at this first Shabbat gathering after the horrific event.

It helped.  It doesn't fix everything, it doesn't mean that hatred is not incredibly strong in our country right now, but it does help to know that many, many, MANY good people are linking arms (literally or figuratively) and pushing back.

With that in mind, I am holding out hope for tomorrow.  For good people to speak out and to stand strong against racism, Islamophobia, homophobia, misogyny, and Anti-Semitism.

As Annelies Marie Frank said:


It’s difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.









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  1. Speaking out makes a difference. Perhaps not right at that moment, but, like a mustard seed, you never know how far that mustard will spread, in a single heart or an entire community. One of my favorite bumper stickers here in the shop right now says "They thought they had buried us, but they didn't realize we were seeds."

    Thank you for the seeds you spread!

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