Shirat Shalom Congregation
By Lee Degani
I first learned of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School at 3:00 p.m. when my sister texted me. She was in lockdown at a nearby pre-school where she holds her music program.
After checking the current situation (deaths weren’t being reported yet,) I immediately posted on social media and in healing groups I belong to asking for prayers for our entire area.
I already knew some parents wouldn’t be bringing their children to our afternoon Hebrew School later. As parents our instinct kicks in, we feel vulnerable and want to protect our children, keep them close to us during such times.
I remember it well from 9-11. Even now I had the urge to call my own children even though they are adults.
Most of the older children who did come to school knew about the shooting. So of course we prayed and sent our Light to the entire situation. Just connecting to that sacred energy with the children was a balm for the shock I was still feeling.
Later as I worked individually with a child, I received another text that 17 had died. Although the shock was now back I somehow continued to finish working with the student. I then went into the next room to tell my husband.
I planned to say “seventeen dead” in Hebrew so the children wouldn’t understand but I couldn’t remember how to say “seventeen!” Instead I said, “seventeen” in English and the word “dead” in Hebrew. One student immediately asked “Seventeen died?” I answered, “Yes.” The next question was, “Why?”
There were six children, 5th-7th graders, sitting around a table, now looking up at me, expectantly waiting for an answer. I froze. How do I answer them? Should I tell them what I know? This has always been my promise to God, to bring to my students the spiritual teachings on a child’s level. My guidance took over and I began answering their questions.
We talked about how we never really die, only our bodies do. That all who died from the shooting are in a different form and are with God now. That sometimes things happen so change can be made, that all those who died sacrificed their lives for us.
They didn’t know about it consciously but did on a deeper level, the soul level. But this still doesn’t erase the pain and grief their loved ones left on earth are feeling, that we are all feeling.
We talked about the shooter, of how people who act in such ways do not feel loved. We compared this to bullies not feeling loved, of how they feel alone. But even so this doesn’t mean we will allow their actions.
We discussed how it was when I grew up. Special needs and mentally ill children were isolated, bullies could do whatever they wanted, problems were hidden.
We are now living in a time when all the hidden problems are being shown to us so we can make changes. God needs each of us in our own way to make these changes.
For children it can mean speaking up even if scared, expressing feelings, being kind.
I am never ceased to be amazed by my students. As the children shared their own stories they once again showed me their innate understanding of who they really are.
A part of me wonders if the fifth grade girl would still have asked, “Seventeen died?” if I had said both words in Hebrew. But another part of me knows the answer for in the deepest workings of the universe, the children are here on earth to bring forth changes.
May we all receive healing, love and support as we move forward with the changes that need to be made to provide a safe and loving world for our children.
Lee and her husband David are spiritual leaders of Congregation Shirat Shalom, a Jewish congregation in Boca Raton, FL.