My Own Private Lament

Posted on October 31, 2018 by Jenn Zatopek

I was at folk mass on Sunday when I found out 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 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.  I loved all my time at Friday nigh shul (synagogue), 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 action to really make a difference in our lives and change the world.   My Jewish brothers and sisters sought and found God too, just like 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 am horrified, dismayed, and grief-stricken at our president whose toxic rhetoric continues to fuel the White Supremacy movement and most likely encouraged the paranoid delusions of the killer. I hate that my tears and prayers are simply not enough to bring back those eleven precious souls back to life. (This last statement shows you I have tiny savior issues.  Please see 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.  That felt like such a small thing, noticing beauty amidst the terrible tragedy in Pittsburgh, but it is enough.  It’s good for me to look to the good in each day not because it takes away the awfulness of the crime but because it restores me to joy.  When I am filled up with joy, I can throw myself into the pool of grief that awaits me, that is around all of us in these sick and crazy days.

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 those 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 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 action.  I’ll vote for sane and responsible leaders, send money to organizations that are helping the crime victims, and I will say hello to folks, 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, without any doubt at all, that there is no us and them, but only us. Only us. Only us.


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 see 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.  They are a 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 be sad for awhile. It’s okay.  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.

Laugh.  One of the most marvelous gifts of being human, the thing that separates us from all other animals, is that we get to feel more than one emotion at once.  Laughter and tears are both holy and both human.

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