Star of David in a stained glass window in a synagogue.

A Poem

By Lily Kollin

Saturday morning
And I was in synagogue
Surrounded by Jews of all backgrounds
Surrounded by those who have come every Saturday for every week of their life
And surrounded by those who had come for their first time
The Torah service had concluded
Whispers of the mourner’s kaddish began to fade
The davening stopped just in time for kugel
for Seven layer cake
for Bagels and lox
ah and Don’t forget the Cholent
It was hilariously Jewish
It was unforgivably Jewish
It was proudly Jewish
It was home
It was compassion
It was generosity
It was family at its holiest

Saturday morning
And I was in synagogue
The rain fell outside onto the drenched autumn leaves
Laughter and an overabundance of food filled us up with warmth
I was perfectly and effortlessly content
Saturday morning
And I was in synagogue
And I was pulled aside
And told 11 of our people were murdered
Saturday morning
In synagogue

You see I’ve already chanted “enough is enough”
I’ve worn orange until it began to tatter
I’ve raised posters
I’ve shed tears
I spoke fearlessly and angrily and with such intense hope for the future
I wrote a poem after Parkland
“I Heard There Was Another Shooting”
I read my words wherever I could
But how many times can I read that poem?
How many names can I keep adding to the list?
The words have begun to wear, to tire
They are exhausted and ready to rest

Saturday morning
And I was in synagogue
And I was filled with a sense of ease I had been longing to feel for ages
The knots in my back began to quiet to a low hum
But I came home to a noisy and messy world unraveling before us
I came home to a world losing a battle with its longest and oldest enemy

And for once
I couldn’t think about our president
I couldn’t think about gun laws
I couldn’t think about God
All I could do was feel and I felt endlessly
It was as if a small part of my soul had been plucked
It dissipated into thin air before my eyes
It was soaked in blood
the neir tamid had suddenly gone out
For this time
This time it was family
This time it was home
This time it was saturday morning
In synagogue
This time it was targeted at the compassionate
At the generous
At the proud
At the faith of peace

This time it felt as if the mourners kaddish could never be loud enough to mend the wounds
This time no number of mi sheberach prayers could ever send enough love to those who need it most
Because this time it was us
It was all of us
This time it was saturday morning
In synagogue
And all of us were there
all of our lives were stripped away

This time I longed for the ease I had felt only hours before
but this time I knew I could never get it back
This time I knew every time I walked into synagogue
On saturday morning
I would be looking over my shoulder

This time hate won
It tangled with us until it finally overpowered our constraints
Until we weren’t looking
It waited until we began to pray

But no matter the hardship
No matter the overwhelming sorrow our people have endured
No matter the ever-growing list of fading names and stories we pass on
No matter the tattoos on our arms
No matter the death that has tried to consume us at every turn
We have risen up
Again and again and again and again
We have created life in the face of death every single time

We stand here
Engulfed in hatred
We stand here
In synagogue
Side by side
Jew and non-Jew alike
We stand here
Our deep sadness and soft tenderness filling us up with warmth
We stand here
In our home
With our family
Creating love
In the midst of blinding hatred
We stand here
And proudly

I stopped wearing my Magen David around my neck a few years ago
It was scratchy
It nipped at my hair
But saturday morning I vowed to wear my necklace everyday for the rest of my life
I vowed to never hide my family
I vowed to let myself feel endlessly and love without hesitation
I vowed to fight hate at it’s every turn
For I have grown up being taught to create life in the face of death
To create unity in the face of division
To create love in the face hatred
to hope with such intensity for the future
So let’s create love
Let’s lead the world in peace
Let’s rise up
Let’s go to synagogue
On saturday morning
Without an ounce of hatred in our being
With our family by our side

Read Teens Express Anger, Fear and Compassion about Tree of Life Shooting

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  1. Beautiful poem. Read by my 16 year old daughter at our synagogue last Friday night. Made her cry because she too has been wearing her “Jewish” necklace, the one with her Hebrew name, since the day of the shooting. Pray that people vote today to remove hate from power.

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