It’s like being stabbed twice

I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I’ve now read the shocking news. It’s 5:45 am. I’m awake as usual; a product of my sadistic circadian rhythms and an ocean of regret.

The attack which has hit so close to home, 1,600 steps from my front door. A knife-wielding man entered 770 Eastern parkway and stabbed an Israeli student, before being shot by police. Blood spilled where I’ve danced, drank and prayed. But in all honesty that was not what I feared.

I feared the other shoe.

I trudged miserably through the December Rain I arrived at Shacharis, late as usual. Wet. Confused.  Cold. Miserable. Scared.

Naturally,the “shul sshh-ers” lost before the battle had begun and we were all discussing the previous night’s events. I gleaned a few new details, such as the assailant’s death. And I waited for the other shoe to drop.

I prayed; as I always do with distraction and a helping of angst. Then, as the men of my shul were finishing up with their tefillin, somebody suggested we should say chapter 20 of tehillim (psalms) a common practice in prayer for a person recovering from illness or injury.

“should we say capital chaf?” some one asked.

“Why?” A young man answered. “The shvartze’s already dead.” Laughter.

DROP

I was repulsed. By the boy who made it. He doesn’t know better, but I was still repulsed. By the reaction. The inevitability. As a black Jew, it’s always coming.

There it is, what I always dread. The backlash. The race backlash It always comes. Sometimes, big. Sometimes small. But it always comes. Living in Crown Heights there are going to be incidents. There are going to be attacks, muggings, but with each one with it brings a new referendum of the entire black community, as if there is such a thing.

I have a confession. Whenever I see an incident of a Jew being attacked, in Crown Heights, there is a part of me–not an insignificant part–that hopes there is another Jew responsible. It brings me no pride to feel this way. It’s a secret I’ve held on to for years, but I hope for the problem to be from within the community.  That way, the anger will be directed inward and not outward; and hopefully, there will be some amount of introspection or consideration. But not this time. Not now.

Blame the Mayor.

Blame the cops.

Blame Obama.

Blame the Blacks.

The accusations will start, followed by recriminations.

Then eventually, somebody will ask for my opinion, whether I want to or not. I’ve been interrogated about Trayvon, Ferguson, Knockout.

The knockout hysteria was the worst, because I was both looking over my shoulder and made to feel responsible. I spent many wasted hours trying to rationalize the attacks and explain how they were over-hyped by the media. It was as much self preservation as it was debate. And it always is, when it comes to these complex issues regarding race and the modern age.

But consider this. The thing that made the early-morning attacks so impactful, was that it could have happened to any of us in the community;  Jewish, Lubavitch, Crown Heights. It was so directed, yet so random, that it’s impossible to not take it personally. It’s as if we personally were stabbed.

And for some of us, it’s like being stabbed twice.

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About Ben Faulding

Born in Brooklyn and raised on Long Island. I found my way to Judaism during my twenties. I'm currently a direct care worker for adults with special needs and I live in Crown Heights.
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19 Responses to It’s like being stabbed twice

  1. SwirlGirl says:

    I was feeling the same way yesterday reading this. I don’t live in Crown Heights, but I do work there some days of the week, and decided not to go in today because honestly, I didn’t feel like potentially dealing with it.

  2. Linda says:

    God bless you

  3. Mhmmmmmm says:

    “each one with it brings a new referendum of the entire black community, as if there is such a thing.”

    But there is a black community and this is a fact that is promoted by said black community.

    • Ben Faulding says:

      Wrong. There is no one unified black community. There are enclaves, but not one. It’s like saying there is one Jewish community and lumping every Jew into it; Chabad, Satmar, Modern, israeli, reform, conservative, Syrian.

      It’s like taking all of those communities and give them only one voice. Only in this case, the community is seven times the size of the American Jewish Population.

      Just because one person claims to represent blacks, doesn’t make it so.

      • Gabe Freiman says:

        It may not be unified, but it still exists, in the same way that the Hispanic community exists, or the Korean community, or as you said, the Jewsih community. Sure, you can’t generalize the opinions or beliefs of a group, but you can about what they experience.

  4. Mhmmmmmm says:

    Let us use your comparison. The Jewish community. Just because there is no single minded unified Jewish community does not mean that the Jewish community does not exist.
    And for statistical purposes it can sometimes be worthwhile to see what Jews think, how they behave, etc. Because in some sort of way there are things that all Jews have in common (whether by religion, upbringing, ethnicity etc) and when the term community is used loosely there is implication that the community includes whatever broad population that still maintains certain common characteristics.

    In the context of reporting something that happened in Brooklyn, and more specifically in Crown Heights, the implication of “black community” is exactly that. And to pretend as if there is no “black community” in Crown Heights, is a big fat joke.

    • Ben Faulding says:

      For the purposes of holding any group collectively responsible, the black community doesn’t exist.

      • Mhmmmmmm says:

        I didn’t say that it exists for that purpose. Neither did you mention that in your article. You said “a referendum on the community.” That is something different.
        If statistics support the notion that certain things are more rampant in certain communities then it bears investigation of those communities and what are the contributing factors. Anyone who denies this does not live in reality.

    • Lev Tazir says:

      I’m sorry but what is wrong with you?

      Who comes on to a blog about a death in the community and the pain it’s causing to argue about semantics?

      Seriously, who does that?

      • OnlyTheTruth says:

        I greatly appreciate what you wrote. Whenever I hear the word “schvartze” I don’t just cringe, I tell the person that there are black Jews. Inevitably, the person gets defensive and says “schvartze” just means “black”. No. It. Doesn’t. Not when it’s said in a disparaging tone of voice. It becomes an “us” and “them” divisive word – and WHO is the “us” and “them”???? There are Jews of just about every color and nationality — and as Jews we are supposed to work in partnership with all of G-D’s people to bring Moshiach!!!

        Once, a rebbetzin got defensive when I told her I found her use of “schvarze” offensive. She said a black had murdered one of her relatives in CH. Yes? That is a tragedy and it DOES NOT give anyone license to disparage all black people!!!!

        This is NOT just about “semantics”, it’s about being a CHOSID and being HONEST and STOPPING THE RACIAL PUT-DOWNS that have NO PLACE in this world!

        Moshiach NOW!!!!

      • Rabbi Chava Bahle says:

        I feel exactly the same way about the word goy. Yes it means nation, but in the context of “goyishe kup,” it means “stupid.” Why do people think this is okay? As a Jew I have always felt a special responsibility to bring sensitivity to language.

  5. Pingback: #BlackLivesMatter and Yes, it’s Important to Say « Black, Gay and Jewish

  6. sparkleshark says:

    I am so sorry to hear that this has been happening. I am so sorry that the traditions you feel connected with have people amongst them who are lacking so much in compassion.

  7. Allen Weitzman says:

    Ben, I admire you for your honestly and strength. It took a great deal of both to write as you did.

    I read your piece and understand your feelings and cringe too at the lack of humanity from your congregation to utter such a hateful statement and for the rest of your minyanairs to actually laugh and not berate the boy for his stupidity.

    None of them spoke up.

    Reminded me of the story about the man who didn’t speak up when they came for “others” and then there were none left to speak for him.

    Hopefully we can all learn from the circumstances we’re all going through now although a piece I heard on the radio this morning was quite disturbing. It said that racism in the US is on the rise.

    We’re going the wrong way.

  8. David Latner says:

    There are a lot of wonderful things about the Jewish (and in the [insert your community of choice], but that doesn’t mean that when there are negative aspects exhibited by members of that community (racism, sexism etc.) that the issue shouldn’t be discussed. All the more so when the negative traits could be seen to arise because of the values taught by that community. So, for my part, I think Ben’s article is good, and it is a shame that other members of the shul didn’t admonish the young man who made the racist remark.

    • OnlyTheTruth says:

      Yes, Rabbi, agreed, we need to speak up if G-D forbid we hear something disgraceful and completely against what the holy Torah stands for. I don’t bitterly admonish, rather, I express how much this kind of comment pains me as a human being and as part of klal Yisroel.

  9. Gabriella Smith says:

    Thank you so much for your column. Your pain is so palpable–I am just so sorry. Your comments are taken to heart. I’m a convert as well, and–although I can’t necessarily articulate it–there is an extra pain we suffer. My thoughts are with you…

  10. Lisa Lyn says:

    Thank you for your brave and thought provoking story. I too am a black, Jew – my mother is Jewish and father is black. The struggle is real. Being a dual minority linked with oppression and prejudice from whit anglos but, what is worse, from both groups towards the other. Jews in my family have said some hurtful things inadvertently. Don’t get me started on the well meaning Jews – I also went to Brandeis, Oy! – And many black people have experienced racism from Jews and therefore don’t trust Jews. Perhaps, as it is with so much hatred, just not knowing a person who is different from you in an intimate way places them as the other and thus you can heap prejudice and paranoia satisfyingly in that “other” box. I am rambling. But I just want to underscore that I get it, I live it and although it is a burden, being black and Jewish is something I am so proud of and brings me so much joy! I guess that is one more beautiful duality G_d has given us!

  11. Rabbi Chava Bahle says:

    Thank you for this post. I found it eye opening. Keep writing!

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