There is a joke about Jewish history: “they tried to kill us, we survived. Let’s eat”. But like any joke, there is a truth behind the laughter. Though we are still here, the collective emotional scar of the losses is still with us, even if it is generations after a specific event.
Today is the 3rd anniversary of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. To even type those words hurts. It could have happened in any synagogue in America. But this person chose to walk into Tree of Life and started shooting. What I remember about that day is the fear as I watched the news. I have not attended services reguarlarly in decades, but I have family who does. My initial fear was that this heinous act had reached my relatives. Thankfully, it didn’t.
The message that was sent did not need to be spoken. According to the gunman and those who think like him, we do not belong in this country. Our “differences” (which are merely on the surface) mark us for at best being questionable outsiders and at worst, put a target on our backs. I would love to say that in the three years since 11 innocent people were murdered, that this was the turning point away from hate and prejudice. Unfortunately, as we all know, it wasn’t.
May the memories of those killed that day be a blessing. Z”L.
Antisemitism is on the rise. It is a fact that is sadly indisputable. When innocent congregants were murdered at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 27th, 2018, it was a wake up call.
Squirrel Hill: The Tree of Life Synagogue Shooting and the Soul of a Neighborhood, by Mark Oppenheimer (co-host of the Unorthodox podcast), was published earlier this month. In the book, Opppenheimer focuses on the community, both past and present. It starts with the history of both the city and the neighborhood and ends with how it has bounced back since that day. What makes Squirrel Hill unique is that it is both diverse and has retained it’s Jewish neshama (soul). While in other parts of the country, there is an obvious demographic, cultural and religious shift over the decades, this district has maintained its identity.
When the gunman (who the author does not mention by name and shall be referred to in the same manner in this review) entered the synagogue, it was an event that can only be described as knowing the rose colored glasses off of our collective faces. With a journalist’s eye and the heart of an ordinary human being, Oppenheimer speaks to survivors, the victim’s family members, local residents, historians, and others to tell the story of a moment in time that will forever be preserved in a moment of hate, fear, and heartbreak.
I loved this book. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was on multiple lists of the top books of 2021. If the author’s approach would have been to wallow in grief and anger while telling this story, he would have had every right to. But he treats the subject with sensitivity and the understanding that not everyone involved is ready or able to talk about that day and its aftermath.
One of my favorite quotes from Star Wars the following:
“Fear is the path to the dark side…fear leads to anger… anger leads to hate… hate leads to suffering.
Yesterday was the second anniversary of the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Those were murdered that day (Z”l) because they were Jews.
Unlike the America that my parents and grandparents were born into, my early years were free of antisemitism. I lived in multi-cultural world that respected everyone, regardless of labels or ancestry.
October 27th, 2018 changed all that. It was a slap in the face, a cold reminder that antisemitism is still alive and well in the United States. It has been said that time heals all wounds. But time can never take away the pain of that day.
But even with the heartbreak, there is still hope.
Our people and our faith has been threatened countless time over the millennia. But we are still here and we will always be here.
While we carry on as we always have, the memory of those killed that day will live on forever, in spite of the heartache that comes with that loss.
81 years ago tonight, the semi-comfortable world that European Jews knew came to an end.
Up until Kristallnacht or the Night of the Broken Glass, the uptick in antisemitism that German Jews had experienced was mostly non-violent. November 9-10, 1938 changed everything. Jewish synagogues, homes, and schools were destroyed. Around 100 German Jews were killed and 30,000 German Jewish men were sent to concentration camps.
Given the current political and social climate that we live in in 2019, I feel like I have to ask if it can happen here, in the United States?
The scary answer is yes. The shootings at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and Chabad of Poway in California occurred less than a year apart. In my hometown of New York City, the number of hate crimes against Jewish residents is rising quickly.
I sometimes take for granted that I live in a country that guarantees me the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I also take for granted that I live in one of the most diverse cities in the world.
I wish I could say that I live in a better world that German and European Jews lived in. But I don’t. Antisemitism is still alive and well. Until such day that antisemitism is dead and buried, a small part of me will be concerned that another Kristallnacht can happen here.
I sometimes try to delude myself that because I lived in the United States, this won’t happen to me. I am seen as a complete human being, not just a member of a particular religious or cultural group. But I have to face reality. Antisemitism is on the rise in numbers that has not been seen in generations. I shouldn’t be afraid to wear an outward symbol of my faith out of fear of being abused or attacked. But this is the reality that we all live in.
The shooting was the subject of this week’s Unorthodox episode. It made me feel less alone and less scared. But it also reminded me that I live in a world in which entering a house of worship requires passing by security and police. I wish that this was not the case, but it is.
May the memory of those 11 innocent people killed on that day forever be a blessing and may their blood be avenged.
Today we remember the six million Jews who were tortured, starved and slaughtered merely because of their faith.
Over the years, we have said never again. But the phrase “never again” feels empty. Between the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue last fall and the shooting at Chabad of Poway synagogue this past weekend, I am reminded that antisemitism is alive and well in our world.
The same lies and hatred that killed my relations decades ago are responsible for the murders at both the Tree of Life and Chabad of Poway synagogues.
The picture above is from a memoir that my great-grandfather wrote about Dobromil, the shtetl that he grew up in. One of the reasons that my family is here today is because he immigrated to the United States in the early part of the 20th century. When he left for the United States, he left behind his widowed father, his siblings and their families. They all perished in the Holocaust.
I wish we could say never again. I wish that we could say that antisemitism or hatred/prejudice of any kind is the past. But it is still part of our present. Until we face this kind of hatred and erase it from our world, the phrase “never again” will continue to feel empty and worthless.
A mass shooting these days is like old news. As soon as the dust has settled from one, another one takes its place.
Today, there was a mass shooting in a hospital in Chicago. As of earlier this evening, four people are dead. While the suspected gunman is among the dead, so is a policeman who stepped into the line of fire.
As of last Monday, there have been over 314 mass shooting in 2018 so far. While there are always a number of factors that come into play when it comes to mass shooting, I can’t help but think that a certain person in Washington D.C. has played his role in this gruesome and heartbreaking statistic.
You sir, have blood on your hands. These shootings have happened your watch and you have done little to stop them. You have yet to enact national legislation that would force anyone purchasing a gun to go through a background check. You have not worked with mental health professionals to stop those who are determined to kill and have easy access to guns. After the shooting at the Synagogue in Pittsburgh, you stated that there should have been armed guards at the entrance.
You sir, are not just tone-deaf, but cold. You only hear what you want to hear, what makes you feel good. You don’t care about this country, you only care about yourself.
Yesterday, you stated that you give yourself an A+ as President. I give you an F and I hope that one day, this country wakes up to realize the kind of man whom we have elected to lead us.
Attacks like the massacre in the Tree Of Life Synagogue nearly two weeks ago do not happen in a vacuum. They start with words, lies and stereotypes that lead to destruction and murder.
80 years ago tonight, Jewish businesses, home and Synagogues in Germany were ransacked and destroyed during what would later be known as Kristallnacht. 30,000 Jewish men were forced into concentration camps and 91 men were killed.
The excuse for Kristallnacht and the shooting in Pittsburgh two weeks ago is the same. It is hatred of the other, of someone who is different, that leads to events like The Holocaust. It feels like nothing has changed. We have learned nothing in 80 years. We allow hate and prejudice to fester until it becomes mass murder. We allow our politicians to twist the facts until they become lies.
A wise person once said the following:
‘Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it”
I guess history will continue to repeat itself until we learn from it.
The shooting that left 11 people dead in the Tree Of Life Synagogue its Pittsburgh on Saturday morning was a heartbreaking reminder that hate and prejudice still have a place in our society.
But in spite of that hate, there are still people in this world who see past labels and see the person.
Last night, I received a phone call from a former colleague who is Catholic. She expressed her condolences about the shooting. The reaction from my friends (most of whom are not Jewish) on Facebook was nothing but supportive and loving.
Yesterday, there was a story on Mashable that Muslim activists have raised more than $50,000 to help the loved ones of the victims pay for the funerals and to provide financial support to those who are still in the hospital.
Anne Frank lived through and died during the most inhuman period of human history. But even with all of the death, hatred and destruction that was her normal, she never gave up hope about humanity.
I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.
This weekend was extremely hard for myself and many others. But we got through it because we were wrapped in love and support. While we cannot bring back the 11 people who were murdered on Saturday, we can heal. We can live in peace and we can love one another, in spite of our differences.
This morning started off like any morning for the members of the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. At approximately 10:30 am EST, a gunman walked into the synagogue and killed 8 people with at least 4 more injured in the shooting. He stated the following as a reason for the shooting: All Jews must die.
This shooting hits too close to home for me. Other than attending services on the high holidays (and perhaps for a special occasion), I haven’t attended Saturday morning services regularly since high school. But I come from a Jewish family where attending regular Saturday morning services is a just part of the weekly calendar. I count my blessings that none of my loved ones were in that synagogue, but it also hurts like h*ll.
I am scared, angry and on the verge of tears. Antisemitism is alive and well in America. The people who were killed were only killed because they are Jewish and happened to attend services at the Tree of Life Synagogue.
This should not be happening in 2018. We should be able to go about our business without being afraid of being killed for who we are. Religious institutions should not need to hire armed guards or security so their members can attend services and feel safe in doing so.
According to news reports, the accused gunmen was found with an AR-15 and a handgun. An AR-15 was also used in the shooting in Las Vegas and Florida. What will it take for our government to enact reasonable gun control laws? How many will die before we come to our senses?
Of course, you know who sounded Presidential, be we all know that he is part of the problem. His antisemitic dog whistles has allowed those who believe as shooter did that they are right.
This should be classified as a hate crime and if convicted, the shooter should receive the harshest legal penalty possible.
May the memory of those killed be a blessing and may we all see each other first and foremost as human beings.
I am going end this post with Shylock’s speech from The Merchant of Venice. Though this speech was written hundreds of years ago, it feels relevant today.
I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge. The villainy you teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.-Act III, scene I
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