Rabbi Dennis Linson
Temple Judea of Laguna Hills
As a minority in America, hearing the term a shanda fur di goyim and believing it was not unusual for our Jewish community. We felt as though we were different somehow and therefore did not experience common maladies of divorce, alcoholism/addiction, abuse and suicide. These things were not spoken about in polite company, as if not speaking about them erased them from happening.
On a smaller scale, we heard “the C word” as if not naming the dread disease of cancer removed it from those we love. In recent times, we’ve come to realize that we Jews experience these issues just the same as the majority culture around us. Suicide is not something we are able to understand. Sadly, we hear about it too often today from among our families, our celebrities, our veterans. If suicide is not an epidemic, then it surely seems close. Standing at a funeral or on the High Holy Days, should I name it or should I ignore its presence? I understand the comforter at the funeral who feels it is too private and that the rabbi shouldn’t name it. Yet a family member said openly, “Just like a heart attack, it was a brain attack.”
In 5779 and beyond, we need to be humble, live with many questions and few answers, face our anger and not hide from suicide. Rather, we should increase our awareness of mental health issues.