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Honoring Jewish American Heritage Month in the Face of Struggle

If you have been a member of Still I Run for a while, you may know Shoshana Gordon or recognize her name. Since 2020 she’s selflessly given back to the Still I Run community through serving as a Champion Ambassador and helping out with many programs behind the scenes. 

Shoshana is a mom to two daughters (18 and 22), two rescue pups, a NASM certified Personal Trainer, ACE Fitness Instructor, and holds a Master’s in Social Work. 

Over the years, Shoshana has openly shared her experiences with the Still I Run community, showing others that they are not alone in living with anxiety and ADHD, and encouraging many of us to practice acceptance and grace as we navigate mental health struggles. 

As a proud Jewish American woman, Shoshana celebrates her Jewish heritage all year long with her followers and friends. However this May, in honor of Jewish American Heritage Month (JAHM), Shoshana bravely shares her struggles with the Still I Run community, as the Jewish community faces rising antisemitism and hate across America. 

Through sharing her perspective and struggles, Shoshana aims to let others know they are not alone and advocate for the Jewish community amidst a very difficult time. 

Antisemitism and Microtrauma 

Growing up, Shoshana had regular bomb threat drills at the Jewish day schools which she attended. She knew from a very young age, there were people who wouldn’t like her, simply because she was Jewish. 

As Shoshana grew older, she experienced various forms of antisemitism and was aware of the increasing hatred towards Jewish people. Shoshana shared that she would see news stories and social media posts about numerous antisemitic incidents locally, nationally, and worldwide.

She remembers when her oldest daughter was in high school, a local synagogue was graffitied with a swastika and some other antisemitic words. Her daughter's bus drove past that synagogue every morning on the way to school. Shoshana worried about her daughter seeing this and how it would affect her feelings of safety in her hometown.

While all of these experiences were concerning, it was simply a part of life for Shoshana, and she continued to be a proud Jewish woman and parent. Nothing in Shoshana’s 50 years of life could have prepared her for October 7th. 

The Day That Changed Everything 

The morning of October 7th, Shoshana participated in the World Mental Health Day 5k with her local Still I Run chapter. It was a wonderful morning running with friends to support a cause so very dear to her heart. She was in a very happy place.

When she walked into her house, her teenage daughter told her there had been a terror attack in Israel. This news was upsetting, but Shoshana was used to hearing about various terror attacks and bombings in Israel. 

But as the day progressed, they started learning more about the absolutely horrific attack that occurred. Shoshana struggled to wrap her head around what she was hearing and seeing. 

She immediately went to the social media pages of her friends in Israel, to see if they were safe and how they were doing. It gave her temporary comfort knowing they were safe, but that comfort did not last long. 

Waves of extreme sadness, anger, and fear took over her body and continued for the next month as she learned more about the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust.  

The Days Following

Over the next month, Shosana was a physical and emotional wreck. She cried every day and often multiple times a day. Sometimes, it was from reading a social media post or listening to a news story, and other times she just broke into tears without any specific prompt. 

Some nights she would cry herself to sleep and other nights she would stare up at the ceiling willing herself to fall asleep. Shoshana often had nightmares that would wake her in the middle of the night, which would leave her shaking and crying. Her body was physically exhausted from this emotional toll, her anxiety increased and she struggled to keep up with daily tasks. 

Opening the Floodgates

Shoshana had never experienced these strong emotions in this way before. She struggled putting her feelings into words because it all just felt too much. She shared how October 7th, the response to that day and the rise in antisemitism has opened floodgates of emotions that have deeply affected her mental health. 

When something so big happens, it changes the dynamic. The build-up of a lifetime of antisemitism and the painful scars of the genocide of her ancestors that lay relatively dormant inside of Shoshana for most of her life has now been activated into full-blown panic, anxiety, and depression. 

Beautiful memories of her homeland, where she and her children have visited, are now tarnished with visions of loss and suffering. She can’t help but have thoughts of “what if we had been there” just as many of us can relate to in the aftermath of senseless tragedies.  

Learning that one of the young women who was brutally murdered on October 7th was someone she had known as a child also added to her pain. It was more than hitting close to home, it was home. 

Her youngest daughter, who is entering college this upcoming fall, had to make the heartbreaking decision to withdraw from her dream school because she wouldn’t feel safe there. As a mother of a daughter entering her first year of college, the usual worry of whether your child will do well in studies now pales in comparison to the fear for her daughter’s safety as a Jewish woman on campus. 

Fear of History, Repeated 

Perhaps Shoshana’s biggest concern is the mob mentality these events evoke in society. Instead of coming together and rallying around the Jewish community, we are seeing hate and antisemitism across our Nation. 

During the Holocaust, Jews were not the only people targeted. That is why there is a pink triangle representing the LGBTQIA+ community. If history has taught us nothing, it’s taught us that these situations breed fear and mistrust and are not exclusive to one group of people. 

For Shoshana and many others, it’s difficult to sit back and watch others stay silent. It’s also difficult to experience gaslighting from others who aren’t willing to accept that something like this can happen today in America. It is a blatant disregard for her feelings as a Jewish woman, a minimizing and negating of what has happened and what is happening, and an unwillingness to understand the effect this is having on Jews around the world.

Practice Self-Care

For those who also struggle with mental health issues, these experiences can be particularly triggering, and taking care of yourself is paramount. Shoshana uses running as a way to work through her anxiety and pain. To honor her heritage, she created a Jewish running playlist and often sings along. 

She’s also reminded that these are the moments when community is critical. In addition to her SIR community, Shoshana has found solace in other support groups such as Nice Jewish Runners, a National group of runners who can relate to her in this particular situation and help her to feel less alone. She is looking forward to a local NJR group starting up soon. 

Shoshana credits running and community for being a lifesaver in terms of her mental health. But social media can be a double-edged sword. Shoshana has found some amazing people and organizations that have given her support and made her feel less alone, but it can also send her down a spiral of anxiety, fear, and sadness.

Just like Shoshana does with her mental health issues, she acknowledges how she's feeling but tries not to let it consume her. She knows she must keep living and moving forward. This doesn’t define who she is but it’s a part of who she is. 

As a Jewish American watching the tragedy in Israel, it’s understandable to feel guilty for taking care of herself, but she recognizes that taking care of herself is the single best way she will be able to give back and keep the strength up to fight for others. 

Speak Up For Others

While May is typically a time to come together to celebrate the vibrant and varied American Jewish American heritage, this year is heavy and may feel hard. Shoshana encourages the Still I Run community to stand with our friends who are Jewish. Acknowledge their pain and check in on them and their mental health. 

When you see something that’s not okay, speak up, just like you would for anyone else. Shoshana shared that little things make a big difference, and even the smallest acts might make a world of difference to our friends who are struggling right now. 

“Here at home, too many Jews live with deep pain and fear from the ferocious surge of antisemitism — in our communities; at schools, places of worship, and colleges; and across social media. These acts are despicable and echo the worst chapters of human history. They remind us that hate never goes away — it only hides until it is given oxygen.  It is our shared moral responsibility to forcefully stand up to antisemitism and to make clear that hate can have no safe harbor in America.” (Source: A proclamation on Jewish American Heritage Month, 2024, The White House, Joseph Biden, JR) 

Shoshana regularly shares her experiences as a proud Jewish woman, passionate about

running and mental health. You can follow her on Instagram at sg_fitnesshealth.


By amber2765

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