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Jewish Mothers’ Amulets – Not Enough


By Cyd Weissman

This week we are one in sadness. I heard people on the right, left and even the “I don’t even give a damn” spectrum, express sadness for the murders of three teenage boys hitchhiking home from school. A friend who almost never discusses Israel texted: “A silent prayer for Gilad, Naftali and Eyal.” At work we were told no posting on social media. When laughter was heard at work, it was followed by the awkward, “no laughter today please,” pause. No one spoke politics. Today we were all parents, siblings and cousins of three murdered Jewish teens.

In our ears we can hear their mothers’ voices that morning they left for school the last time: “Did you take your coat? Be careful, have a good day, love you.” These are the cadences of Jewish mothers.

Rabbi Henry Cohen taught that Jewish mothers used to say phrases like, “button up your coat,” or “eat another bowl of soup” as regularly as “good morning” because their children were sent into an unsafe world. Past the front door, a mother had no control of hoodlums, pogroms or conscriptions. So the extra dose was protection, an amulet, for a world cultured in seeking out Jews, the different ones, as targets for hatred.

In times of quiet, when Jews think they are just like their neighbors, a mother’s learned amulet, passed down from generation to generation, doesn’t go away.

Mothers call out:

“Don’t you think you’ll need a sweater?”
“Don’t go with strangers.”
“Call me when you get there.

Children hear these amulets and roll eyes:
“Don’t you think I know when I need a sweater without you telling me?”

Today’s headlines are a reminder that the world we live in is not so quiet and it is not always safe to be a Jew. Today we remember that we are all Jews, regardless of our political hankerings. Today we stand together in loss.
As my friend texted: a silent prayer for three teenagers who loved basketball, singing and baking, who walked out from their homes into an unsafe world and now have left this world.

And let me ask for a not so silent prayer: this feeling of oneness shared today will hover a little longer so we can work together to make the path beyond our children’s front door a little safer and a little more peaceful.

Hear together, today and tomorrow Rachelli Frankel as she spoke her last amulet to her son
at his funeral, “Rest in peace, my child.”

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