By: Gaby Rahmanfar  | 

Libi Bamizrach Va'anochi B'sof Maarav: The Guilt of an American Jew

I am trapped in a pit of guilt, and I know many of you are in it with me. 

Guilt can be defined as “the fact of having committed a specified or implied offense or crime.”  My offense — lounging in my NYC dorm while my brothers and sisters huddle in bomb shelters. My crime — going to bed tonight with no fear that a terrorist will abduct me in my sleep.

I know I’m not alone in these feelings. The sense of guilt and sheer helplessness on campus and in our community is palpable. This sort of phantom pain we’re experiencing is hard to articulate. We feel affected, yet are unscathed. All so deeply connected, yet so far removed. 

What can we do? “Pray,” they tell us. I am personally nauseous of reciting the same perakim of Tehillim over and over. “Donate,” we’re told. I’m a college student with no money to my name. “Life must go on,” some suggest. It simply cannot. 

Is there any way to quell this guilt? I don’t know. If you’re reading this for answers, I don’t have any. Perhaps this is what galus really feels like — a pain that has been harboring inside us all along. The anesthesia of our cushy American lives is now wearing off. 

But I refuse to remain helpless, and when all else fails, we turn to those wiser than us. 

After returning to campus, I turned to Rabbi Yosef Blau shlita who shared with me that even when someone cannot show responsibility in one context they can show responsibility elsewhere. If you’re like me, and you feel like there’s nothing you can actively contribute to our siblings across the sea, maybe we need to stop looking so far. I’m very fortunate to have a position on campus that allows me to give to my sisters right here in Midtown. What’s your role? Is it going to a rally on a secular college campus to support our friends who don’t have the same security we take for granted at YU?  Or is it volunteering to sit with a sick child in Columbia Presbyterian through organizations like Ahavas Chesed? Maybe it’s taking yourself for a walk because sometimes you just need to take care of yourself. 

Will any of this alleviate the guilt we’re entrenched in? I’m not sure. Personally, it remains a struggle. I originally thought I needed to amplify the pain to compensate for my distance to the plight of our people, but that is a harmful attitude. I have a role to play and so do you. Find what it is and hold on to it tight. 


Photo Caption: The Kotel plaza

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons