My Own Private Lament

Posted on October 31, 2018 by Jenn Zatopek

While at a folk mass on Sunday, I learned eleven Jews were massacred on Saturday. I didn’t know what to say when my new friend Emily explained what happened except “Oh my God” over and over and over again.

For some reason, the mention of this crime makes me weep, and I believe it’s because it’s so personal. I am Jewish after all.

Before I converted to Christianity in university, I dabbled in Judaism during my sophomore year. I attended services at a local reform synagogue while attending church on Sundays. (That was the year I was courted by two Gods, the Abrahamic faith of my mother’s people and Jesus.)  I seriously considered studying Torah and doing the mikvah, a ritual cleansing bath a person takes to become Jewish. I was so taken with Saturday morning services, watching the older men and women playfully argue over Torah, but I especially loved my time on Friday nights at shul. I loved Likrat Shabbot, enjoying the delicious foods at the Oneg Shabbat afterwards, immersing myself with people who longed for God’s justice and mercy to overflow on earth.

My time with the Jews showed me that our beliefs need to be paired with meaningful action to bring about the changes we long for in our lives and in the world. My Jewish brothers and sisters sought out and found God too, just like so many other Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, and other persons of deep and devout faith. That’s what our friends in Pittsburgh were doing this past Saturday morning before the fall: just finding their own way to God, being sacred together.


I find myself shocked and dismayed by Trump’s toxic rhetoric which only fuels the White Supremacy movement and my fear is that his words most likely encouraged the paranoid delusions of the killer. I hate that my tears and prayers are not enough to bring back those eleven precious souls back to life. (This last statement shows you I have tiny savior issues. Read this post for more.)

What I do know is that I witnessed lots of beautiful butterflies on a recent hike after learning about the massacre.  Walking down the sunlit path, I breathed slowly and prayed and delighted in dozens of butterflies, some crimson, orange, and butter yellow, little messengers of hope. Noticing small moments of beauty amid the terrible tragedy in Pittsburgh is vital for living well, but for me, it is simply not enough.

As I look to the good in each day, I find that gratitude helps me come back to joy, which is my birthright. When I am filled up with joy, I can touch the places of grief that await all of us these days as we lament and cry together.

Last night, I lit candles and prayed for the dead, for the killer, and for goodness to prevail. In many First Nation tribes, especially those who resided along the Great Plains, butterflies represented hope and resurrection, a chance to begin again. Perhaps these butterflies here in Texas represent the spirits of those eleven lost souls who will continue on in their own mystical way, our dead having a strange way of being here with us, even if it is only in our hearts and memories for now.

In addition to my own private grief, I plan on taking other meaningful action.  I’ll vote for responsible leaders, send money to organizations that are helping the crime victims, and I will say hello to people, especially those who look lonely and lost. I’ll bless the people who cut me off in traffic and forgive all the people who have hurt me, remembering that the only way to change the world is through prayerful action and knowing bone-deep that there is no separation between us, really, but only all of us tougher as one.


Attend the City-Wide Night of Prayer, Remembrance, and Unity service in Fort Worth at Congregation Ahavath Sholom. The service is on Thursday, November 1 at 6.30pm. For those away from DFW, you might check with your local house of worship and find out if there are any services coming up.

Consider giving money to the GoFundMe campaign that has been created for the survivors of Tree of Life congregants whose loved ones were killed or injured.

Consider supporting Southern Poverty Law Center, a reputable non-profit agency that works to bring civil rights to all persons through public awareness, education, prevention, and legal support.

Allow yourself to read the events of the Pittsburgh shooting and touch the place of sadness within for awhile. You will survive being sad and know what it truly means to “mourn with those who mourn.”

Check to make sure your Voter Registration Status is current and go out and vote in local, state-wide, and national elections because all our votes count.

Laugh through your tears. One of the most marvelous gifts of being human is that we can feel more than one emotion at once. Laughter and tears remind us that we are both holy and wholly human.

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