June 20, 2024

Trying to Understand October 7

Jacklyn Fennessey Guest Blogger

I was invited by Federation to share my impressions as a non-Jewish person attending the Nova Music Festival Exhibit a few weeks ago. First, let me clarify… 

My dad’s mother immigrated to the U.S. from Palestine, presumably from a territory that is part of present-day Israel, in 1928 when she was 4 years old. Her immigration picture was a staple in her apartment and something I always studied as a child. It’s only recently that I’ve begun to appreciate the significance of that photo and the ties my heritage has to a part of the world under severe duress. I was raised Catholic, as was my dad. My granny met her Irish Catholic husband living in the tenement houses on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.  

I’m not quite sure why my granny chose to raise her children Catholic, and it’s a question I wish I could ask her today. I never identified as Jewish, but knew it was part of my heritage. My exposure mainly came down to the sesame cookies and majadara she would make for her family or the Yiddish phrases that were part of her vocabulary and were ultimately passed on to me. 

When I was presented with the opportunity to visit the Nova Music Festival Exhibit in New York City with Federation, I jumped at the chance. It was something I wanted to experience, not only as a humanitarian, but also as someone that wanted to better understand the events of October 7.  

Living and working in the NYC area for 19 years, I’ve been fortunate to form friendships with people from a diverse set of backgrounds, including Jewish American and Israeli. I felt it important to understand their plight, and the impact it has had on the daily lives of all those that identify as Jewish. Furthermore, it’s had me thinking more about the type of tension my grandmother and her family were potentially escaping in the 1920s.  

When you enter the exhibit, you are completely transported to the aura of an outdoor music festival, the scents of incense included. You can feel the energy and elation that comes with people just enjoying life and music. Then, suddenly, a dark cloud takes over. The artifacts that have been collected are meticulously presented in such a realistic manner, you forget you’re in the heart of downtown Manhattan. The sound clips of innocent, terrified civilians are haunting. Interviews of those that survived are coupled with the words of the loved ones of those that were not as fortunate. As a parent, my entire being felt their pain. I was shaken to my core and the tears streamed as I imagined the terror and shock to know your child was not making it home.  

This exhibit honors those who were taken from us too soon while reminding us of the hostages that still need to be brought home. Regardless of your political views, anyone entering this exhibit can appreciate and understand that no nation should have to endure this type of mindless violence. We can only hope for some respite in the near future and a return to focusing on the music. Cultural and political differences, in my opinion, should be nothing but embraced and respected.