January 6 and Intergenerational Trauma

On January 6, 2021, I held my not-yet-one year old daughter to my chest, arms securely wrapped around her, as I carried her from the parking lot to the door of our home in Washington, D.C.

Behind us, by maybe 10 feet, were a group of men: one held a “Come Get ‘Em” flag with a picture of a gun on it that waved limply in the wind, one wore a gas mask and a black bandana over his hair, one wore a “Make America Great Again” hat on his head while his body was clad in camouflage— and another wore a “6 Million Wasn’t Enough” t-shirt and a black and yellow face mask.

 I didn’t know what was happening at the Capitol at the time, I didn’t realize that six blocks from our home there was a mob attempting to overthrow democracy. And, to be honest, even if I did know I’m not sure I would have registered more fear than I already did. I knew in a place my body is familiar with only through generational trauma that our lives were immediately at risk. 

I carried my daughter inside, and we packed. We packed and we fled our home, like so many generations of Jews have had to do in the face of persecution, threat, and danger. As I closed the last blind in our house before we left, I considered the menorah window stickers in front of me. These stickers were facing the group of men in the parking lot that had grown by a few since we went inside. Quickly, I considered taking the stickers down. I considered hiding my Judaism:  my practice, my ritual, myself. 

I’m not sure why I left them up if I’m being honest, but I did. We got in the car and we fled our home–-hoping to find temporary refuge with family outside the city. The menorah stickers filled with candles stayed in the window. 

A few weeks ago I was sitting in a virtual Torah study and we discussed what the Talmud teaches us about Hanukkah. We learned that the Rabbis teach us that the hannukiah should be placed outside the door, or in the window, or wherever is closest to the public domain. We learned that the lighting of the hannukiah is done in the home, but the light of the candles is meant for the world to see. 

My split decision to leave those stickers up, for the world to see the light on such a dark day, was an act of resistance and an act of defiance, even if I didn’t understand it at the time–and even if we only gradually learned the dangerous details of the insurrection that day.

As we move further and further from that dark day, into a time where we are seeing more and more antisemitism, I want this January 6th to be a reminder to us all as Jews: we are resistance, we are defiance.