Bar Mitzvah Planning in an Uncertain Time

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Teacher-appreciation day approaches in February 2017, at our temple’s Hebrew school in Raleigh, North Carolina, so the night before I am baking coconut macaroons. Macaroons are my recipe—the thing I make. I open cupboards checking for supplies: coconut flakes, vanilla, eggs, sugar, chocolate for melting. Whatever I lack, I can run to the store to get; I could run to the store to get 50 of whatever I need. The store shelves are piled high with food, every kind of food. I stand on a tile floor in my kitchen and stare at my cupboards. People have been kicking over tombstones in Jewish cemeteries, calling in bomb threats to Jewish schools and temples. I usually think of teacher appreciation as thanks for putting up with our kids for a few hours a week and helping make sure they know about their heritage. Now I am thanking teachers for putting their lives on the line every time they come to the synagogue. As I suppose my children do, too, and we do when we go.

Activist Amy Siskind adjures us to take notes, to remind ourselves of weekly depredations, because under rising fascism things change rapidly and it is important to remember. Yale professor Timothy Snyder publishes a list of ways to stay alert and aware that is so powerful and popular that it becomes a book. I find that what I want to do above all is document what is, how things are as this begins; I fear that before long this simple act of making cookies will be a distant memory. I think we will look back with disbelief at the time we could just go to the store and buy ingredients. I fear we will look back and remember when the streets were unblocked, when at least some of us thought we could trust the police, when we had electric power and clean water every day. I hope I am being hyperbolic but I doubt it. I stand in front of my full cupboard, my full refrigerator, within a mile or so of two supermarkets so full of food it borders on shameful. I think, “I have to remember this. People will not believe that we had such plenty—and that amid such plenty we went mad.” Perhaps we have gone mad because of the plenty.

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