Honoring our Ancestors on Samhain

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I’ve never really felt connected to the trick or treat aspect of Halloween since being a kid when candy was the goal of knocking on peoples doors. I love that there is still one holiday celebrated which has the potential to meet your neighbors. What I woke up with today, though, is a call to honor my ancestors.

This is a challenging moment for me to connect with my ancestors in the aftermath of the murder of Jews in a Synagogue, including a 97-year-old Holocaust survivor. Many of my ancestors are Jews, including my Grandmother who is a Holocaust survivor from Poland.

I did not learn about the terrifying news via the media because, I admit, I do not watch or listen to the news. I’d rather learn about it from people directly so there is someone on the other line to express our emotions about the updates. I also easily become stressed, anxious and afraid when listening to the mainstream news channels.

I learned about this awful event in a dream early Monday morning. I woke with fear. I dreamed I was in a large hall with my village. We were in prayer and suddenly a smoke like gas began seeping into the hall through the ceilings. We ran and only a few escaped before the doors were locked. I broke through one of the doors as the last person out. I escaped the gas chamber.

I ran into the arms of my sisters and brothers. I wrapped a sheet around myself, covering any bare vulnerable skin exposed to the cold. An angry man found me and scolded me for escaping. I lied and told him I was not escaping, I belonged outside with my family. As I was lying to him, I felt terrible for not telling the truth. I do not like to lie. But, I knew my words were the only hope for protecting myself. I feared what would happen if I told him the truth. The truth that neither me or any of my people were meant to be gassed to death.

How often do we fear what will happen if we speak our truth?

My body and spirit knew what happened last Saturday night as Jews gathered in a temple to worship during the Sabbath, even though my mind had not yet learned of the news. My body knew.

How much information do our bodies carry that is connected to our ancestors? 

I received a call later that day from a friend who was checking in on me to see how I was given what had happened to my people, our people. This is a powerful action that should never be underestimated – call your friends and loved ones when anything happens that impacts their hearts. We have to check in with each other when scary events happen real time. We cannot forget how important it is to listen to oppressed groups.

I believe we are all in heart-ache and break given what is happening in our world. So, the simplest action we can take is to call one another and deeply listen to each other’s hearts and minds no matter what state we’re in. We need to feel safe to share whatever is ready to come out. We cannot hold it in or it will eat away our souls. The heart-break is an opportunity to let the light in, I’ve been told. It is an opportunity to let in those we trust to hold us in times of grief and pain.

My reaction to my friend’s call was first, numbness. I was not surprised given the turmoil in our country. I felt sadness, but also a feeling of…are those really my people? Am I really Jewish? Am I really connected to an oppressed group? Do I deserve this compassion from my friend? Should I pretend I am not Jewish now? Where can I hide?

I am Jewish. I am not hiding. I love my Jewish relatives. I love all my relations regardless of race, gender, sexual preferences, age, religion, culture. I love all my relations. We are one family.

What do I love about Jews?

We are powerful social justice activists who are not willing to give in to systems of oppression. We are fighting for what is right, for equal rights, for freedom of expression. We love delicious food and sharing it together!

Now is not the time to separate people based on their identities. Now is the time to unite together as one family rooted in love, compassion, and hope for the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible. And, I believe your life will improve by getting closer to all oppressed groups, including Jews.

My Jewish heritage has inspired connection to the cycles of the moon and the seasons. Tonight at sundown begins Samhain, the Celtic harvest festival marking the beginning of winter, heading into the darkness. It is also nearing Dia del Muerto, the Day of the Dead, a time for honoring our ancestors, feeding them food, offering gifts and expressing our gratitude for all they have given to us. Remembering and rejoicing in our ancestors feeds them, which nourishes us because our ancestors are always guiding us.

I am grateful for my birth and all the ancestors who made it possible for me to be here now. Thank you for your wisdom even in the moments of deep suffering. I would not be here without you Grandmas and Grandpas. And, big thank you to my last living Grandparent who is 90 years old, a Holocaust survivor, living independently in her own home, was the first female President of her Synagogue, and generous beyond belief.  Thank you for teaching me to be courageous, trust my heart, not take any bullshit, and follow my dreams, Grandma.  I see you and I love you. Always.

-Hannah Lee Jacobson-Hardy (Given Name)

-Hashke Hasaan Ya Nimela Yenezbaa Yehatipa (Navajo Name)

-Sacred Goddess Rainbow Warrior Woman (Warrior Name)

-Chana (Hebrew Name)

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The Jewish Witch

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