Saturday Evening, September 10, 2016 / 8 Elul, 5776
by Michelle Schneider
Thoughts of 9/11 conjure up vivid memories and emotions for many of us. Most of us can still recall, 15 years later, the details of that day. I remember so vividly staring at my four-month-old twin daughters, sleeping so peacefully in their cribs, tears in my eyes, wondering what kind of world they had been born into.
Amidst all of the gloom in the days, weeks and months following 9/11, a ray of hope that emerged, both in New York and around the country, was an increased feeling of unity with our fellow citizens. There seemed to be more patience, more acceptance, more tolerance, more kindness. Our political differences were put aside, and there was a feeling that, we, Americans, would come through this tragedy stronger.
So now fast-forward 15 years. The political divide is as wide as ever, racial tensions abound and economic disparities grow. As a Jew, I am particularly disheartened to see so many stories in the press and on social media about Anti-Semitism and the BDS movement, especially on college campuses across the country. It seems that with passing time, we have grown further apart, and less tolerant and less accepting of our differences and differing thoughts.
I can't help but wonder if we will ever return to the more unified display of 15 years ago? Will it take another massive tragedy to remind us that in so many ways we are all the same? I certainly hope not. When it comes down to it, we all simply desire a life of happiness and meaning; we just each have our own definition of what that means and our own thoughts about the path to get there.
So on this, the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11, let's decide to embrace some differences. It seems especially fitting that it comes during this month of reflection leading towards the High Holy Days. Rather than argue about politics, let's choose to be grateful that we live in a democracy where we get to vote and get to express our views freely. Let's learn about different religions, or perhaps volunteer with an organization that will allow us the satisfaction of having made a positive difference. Let's make a donation to a charity that serves the less fortunate.
When we focus on our commonalities, like we did in those days after 9/11, we can better appreciate and welcome our differences. Can you imagine how boring the world would be if we all held the same beliefs? Let us use this anniversary to be the change we want to see in the world.