Vmintz, arthur
Vmintz, arthur

Tears of a rabbis father

Last week I watched my daughter being arrested. It was not unexpected, knowing her penchant for standing up for what she believes in. In this case it was the Proposition 8 decision made by the California Supreme Court, and believing in the rights of all people to marry and enjoy the same privileges as one another, despite their gender or sexual choice.

Arthur M. Mintz

What surprised me was my reaction.

Here was my daughter Sydney, eldest of my six children, a rabbi at Congregation Emanu-El, the largest congregation in Northern California, being escorted to the prisoner van, handcuffed, in her clerical robe, flanked by two imposing looking cops.

Her civil disobedience was standing arm in arm with people supporting the right of LGBTs to marry, blocking a public street — making a difference, peacefully, in a show of solidarity.

I had no dispute with the arrest, or with the respectful conduct of the police, and I was filled with pride and wonder at the courage of her statement.

Being the father of this strong, brilliant young leader in her community, I have always been overwhelmed during her 12 years as a rabbi. But somehow, teaching our kids to stand up for what they believe suddenly seemed maybe too much.

It’s easy to talk the talk. But when it counts, you have to be ready to walk the walk.

I just didn’t expect the walk to be into a paddy wagon in handcuffs — or how that would make me feel.

I started to cry, really big, wet tears. Not tears I was ashamed of, and the older I get, they seem to come more easily. Sure, this is what she expected and wanted to do. Sure, this is America, and as a lawyer, I knew she was in no real danger. I thought of how people all over the world watch their children or parents get arrested, maybe never to be released alive, or perhaps tortured, and tried to multiply my emotions under different circumstance.

Such as: What if I wasn’t sure she would be released in a few hours? Or: What if her same-sex marriage stand would be deemed to be a scurrilous, anti-government act?

How would I feel then? God bless America!

Perhaps one reason for my emotions was a piece of family history related to me by my Aunt Min when she was telling me about her life in Russia. Two of my ancestors, Nahum and Samuel, were beheaded in czarist Russia, when the cruel Czar Nikolai despised Jews and non-Jews alike. Nahum lectured and wrote for the underground movement, and Samuel arranged meetings and distributed pamphlets.

In addition, two of Aunt Min’s aunts were also involved in Russia’s early socialist movement, and one of them, Bertha, was caught and imprisoned for two years. Not only that, but Bertha’s mother died at the prison gates while trying to visit her daughter.

I suppose I might have recalled these old tales as I watched my daughter being led away.

Driving home, the radio played a Bob Marley song from “Legend”: “Get up, stand up. Stand up for your rights.” I started to feel better.

I drove past the house of my neighbor, the talented, brave and courageous icon, Joan Baez. How many times did she face jail, and threats, standing up for her beliefs? I was glad she couldn’t see my tears. She’d have to think, “What a wuss.”

It’s over now. My special daughter was out of custody in about four hours.

And the tears have stopped. They were only tears of pride. I guess.

Arthur M. Mintz is a resident of Woodside. He is the father of Rabbi Sydney Mintz of Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco.