October 27, 2018
What is a Jew in solitude?
When eleven Jews were gunned down in a shul
less than a mile from my own,
Less than a quarter mile from the one
where my great-grandparents davened,
I was a Jew in solitude.
I associate Jewish community with comfort.
On October 27 I needed comfort more than I needed oxygen.
On October 27 we mourned as a community.
And God knows Jews are not strangers
to communal mourning.
But even when on that evening hundreds of us lit candles
in Washington Square Park,
four hundred too many miles
from Squirrel Hill,
and even the next day when the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
published its first ever Hebrew front page,
beautifully and horribly,
Yitgadal v’yitkadash sh’mei rabah,
and even a year later when the Pittsburgh Symphony
performed a Tree of Life yahrtzeit concert
that brought me to tears,
The despair I felt was so overpowering
it still felt like mine alone.
So I was a Jew in solitude.
A Jew realizing
that if she lived in a world where her community members could be
murdered in cold blood as they read from Vayera
that if davening in community, observing in Shabbos in a minyan,
couldn’t save them,
A Jew might never know
what it would mean not to feel lonely or afraid
far from her own or those she has called her own.
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Miranda Cooper, born and raised in Pittsburgh, is a New York City-based writer, literary critic, editor, and Yiddish literary translator. Her work has been published by Kirkus, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Ploughshares, Jewish Currents, and more.
Photo credit: Photo by author