Like many of you out there, I'm devastated by the horrific murder of peaceful congregants at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. As a Jew in Europe, I think about our past every day as I walk by the stumbling stones marking where victims of the Holocaust were ripped from their homes. I see antisemitism on the rise both in the Netherlands where we live and at home in the US. I see a fear of immigrants on the rise everywhere.
I want my kids to know a world where they feel safe, and know how to make others feel safe too. This starts with education at home and in our community: building bridges with those from different cultures and countries, taking action to support immigrants and refugees wherever they settle, and reading books that represent diverse cultures and reinforce the value of inclusion.
So given this, here are five things you can do to make your home and community welcoming to all:
- Read books to your kids that promote inclusion and represent diverse characters. My grad-school classmate, long-time friend, and the author of the Great Latke Cook Off, Lauren Ranalli recently shared some of her favorite kids books that promote inclusion and kindness. Some of the ones that top her list are Strictly No Elephants and Be Kind. I'll add the lovely Triangle and Circle, by Sarah Claxton--which is great for even the littlest kids.
- Connect with local agencies that support refugees. Often there are individuals with specific needs for household goods or clothing, and you can help them get situated by donating items you no longer need. And there are opportunities to go deeper with a specific family and help them become self-sufficient. For example, my friend Anne is working with her local synagogue to help a family resettled to the US from the Democratic Republic of Congo. They are working on guiding this family on career, education, computer and financial literacy and housing improvements. (In fact, you can contribute to a GoFundMe campaign to help.)
- Support organizations that are leading this work. The community in Pittsburgh was targeted in part because of their support for refugee resettlement work, and in particular their work with HIAS--a well respected organization that originally helped resettle Jewish refugees and now helps all refugees. Show people filled with hate that you are not afraid by continuing to support HIAS.
- Open your home. It's a simple act, but inviting someone over to your home for dinner has deep meaning and goes far in making connections. Our son's school is an international school, and many of the older students are boarders who are far from home. Inviting them to join us for a meal is something they love (yay, home-cooked meals over dining-hall food!) and allows us to connect with people with extremely diverse experiences. Make the leap, and open your doors.
- Vote. Make your voices heard in elections, and hold your representatives accountable. Wherever you are, vote.
These are frightening times, especially for those of us who feel targeted. Remember to be gentle with yourself and your family, and create space for self-care.