Marina Gomberg: How a stolen Pride flag brought home Passover’s message of vigilance

Will LGBTQ families suffer the trauma of persecution that Jews have carried for generations?

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Marina Gomberg.

I remember when I learned that who we were as a family meant some others didn’t like us. I was in grade school and our synagogue was set aflame in eight places during Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish celebration of light.

My memory is that the kids’ area in the basement was the most badly damaged. I learned a new kind of fear.

I dreaded having to tell our 5-year-old, Harvey, why someone would steal our inclusive pride flag and Black Lives Matter sign from our yard the morning I woke up to see the footage from our front camera. My wife, Elenor, and I met wide eyes when he did, in fact, ask.

Elenor, more poised than me, calmly said some people don’t like that we’re proud, and he immediately went into detective mode without asking more in-depth questions.

Phew. Evaded. For now.

But that time will come when he learns that what makes us unique and different isn’t always appreciated.

Not that I would want this to happen to anyone else, but I take some comfort in the fact that we weren’t targeted by these anti-equity crooks. We were just one of many in the neighborhood who had their yards and sensibilities violated.

One of many who support ideas of belonging and justice, which was what my mind wanted to hang onto.

But even as a person who tries to attempt hope before all else, I was struck by a piece in The Atlantic that described opposing narratives honored at different families’ Passover seders.

The author, Abigail Pogrebin, wrote about her family’s Haggadah (the book that walks families through the seder, or order, of events), which focuses on identifying those who might currently have a plight like the Jews in Egypt and encourages kindness to these modern “strangers.”

She countered that with her colleague’s family’s focus, which is on the ongoing threat to Jewish people and our neverending need for hypervigilance — even (and maybe especially) today.

Pogrebin said, “I’m struggling this year to reconcile the lessons I’ve taken from the holiday: to help the world, but also to remember how often the world has turned on us.”

Jews have passed down the trauma of persecution in our DNA, in addition to our remembered and lived experiences of oppression. As more and more LGBTQ couples have children, I wonder if that’s the case for these families, too.

It’s hard to accept that in our modern times, our children are still exposed to these kinds of threats to their safety, but we sadly don’t live in a post-hate world. We see it all over the world and here at home.

The best we can do, I think, is to find a balance between acknowledging and supporting our fellow strangers while honoring that we, too, remain in stranger status. And may that likeness bring us together in the deep hope for less bias-driven actions.

Passover’s purpose, as I have come to understand it, is to teach our children of our struggles and our perseverance as Jewish people, with a particular focus on helping the youngest of us understand.

So this Passover, with a new flag and sign in the yard, I am choosing to lean into the idea that even the babes among us are strong when we adults can be. And we must be.

Marina Gomberg is a professional communicator, a practicing optimist and a lover of love. She lives in Salt Lake City with her wife, Elenor Gomberg, and their son, Harvey. You can reach Marina at mgomberg@sltrib.com.

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