Addressing the Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting

Tree of Life Synagogue Image
The Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This was the site of a mass shooting on October 27, 2018. By CTO HENRY [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons.
This past week has been filled with hate, so much so that I have changed blog topics three or four times in the past six days just to reflect all the bad news (President Trump’s rhetoric on “caravans” coming to the United States, the packages sent to prominent Democrats, and now the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh). Honestly, all of the horrid news of recent days left me wanting to write everything and write nothing, all at the same time.

But here I am, the night before I usually publish my Tuesday blog posts, writing on the most recent piece of bad news: the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

I honestly can’t put into words how awful this tragedy was. A group of people worshiping peacefully (just as I worship peacefully in my own religion on a weekly basis) were put into a state of fear, injury, or death (depending on the individual) from an anti-Semitic individual.

Speaking of anti-Semitism, I think that we need to use this time after the shooting to reflect on anti-Semitism.

Namely, it is high time that those of us who have our heads in the sand about the presence of anti-Semitism in the United States take our heads out of the sand.[1]

Anti-Semitism is quite visible and has been given way too much legitimacy. Those who doubt me can look at the record number of white nationalist candidates running for office this year, including candidates who deny the Holocaust (and at least one candidate who, horrifyingly, was at least at one point a member of the American Nazi Party).[2] Those who doubt me can look at the fact that anti-Semitism was rising sharply in the United States, even before the Pittsburgh shooting.[3] And finally, those who doubt me can look at the violence involving neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia last year and see how the President of the United States said that there were “good people” on the side of neo-Nazis.[4] Anti-Semitism was around before 2017 and 2018, but it has certainly not gone away, and indications are that it has grown. We cannot ignore this anti-Semitism in the United States, and if we ignore it, then it will be to the peril of Jews across this country.

This does not mean that I have a solution that ends all anti-Semitism, and this does not mean that I expect my readers to have a solution to end anti-Semitism (though if anyone does have a roadmap for totally ending anti-Semitism nation-wide and worldwide, God Bless and Godspeed). However, we cannot even begin to think about solving a problem if we are blind to the problem in the first place. And right now, I fear that too many of us are blind to the fact that the anti-Semitism shown in the recent Synagogue shooting is not an isolated incident. It is part of a pattern of widespread anti-Semitism that is only growing in the United States.

Note: This post was written the night before it was published, so I apologize in advance for any mistakes that I made.


[1] I am not mincing words this week.

[2] https://www.businessinsider.com/white-nationalists-running-for-office-in-2018-2018-5

[3] https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2018/10/28/pittsburgh-synagogue-shooting-anti-semitism-rise-america/1799933002/

[4] https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/08/trump-defends-white-nationalist-protesters-some-very-fine-people-on-both-sides/537012/

13 Replies to “Addressing the Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting”

  1. I heard on the radio today that the president was heading there to speak about how such atrocities won’t be permitted and I all but rolled my eyes. He’s given the country free reign to discriminate and hate anyone who doesn’t agree with him, what comfort could he offer the families of the victims?
    I mean, that’s just my take on it but when the leader of your country basically says it’s okay to hate everyone different from you and violence isn’t acceptable, wink wink…Kind of speaks for itself,.

    I hope the families find some kind of peace and that those who foster all this hatred get their heads out of the sand and stop perpetuating the current culture of violence and hate.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I haven’t followed Trump’s response on the shooting that much, in part because it’s probably not good for my mental health to find out.

      If it weren’t for his response to the Charlottesville massacre last year, he might be in a better position to offer comfort. Maybe. But saying that there are fine people on the side of white nationalists, KKK, and neo-Nazis certainly didn’t help.

      Like

  2. Even Americans who aren’t idiot holacaust deniers tend to think of anti semitism as a European thing. Makes it easy to do nothing. (Much like northerners who claim racism is a southern thing.) Until recently I taught history (using a lens of race/class/gender) at a university and every semester I would have at least one (usually more) Jewish students thank me for addressing 20th century American anti Semitism and it’s continued effect on today’s society. Every single one of them would tell me that the holocaust was the only thing teachers ever taught. And yes—students absolutely need to know about the holacaust—but they also need to know we (Americans) are not immune to anti Semitic attitudes and actions. Can’t fix if we don’t acknowledge. (And I know I’m “preaching to the choir” here but I needed to vent!)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I totally understand the need to vent Tina. 🙂

      We do have a habit of viewing anti-Semitism as a European thing, something for Nazi Germany. But the reality is that such forces still very much exist. And many of us have our heads in the sand about it, thinking that this is something isolated. It’s not isolated.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for this blog post. Yes, the media has turned a blind eye to this growing number of (especially) nationalist and white supremacists and just merely denouncing this tragedy as if it were an isolated event. It is most certainly not. Where I live, there have been 2 bomb threats made to a local Jewish center. I know Trump appears to be pro-Jew but without calling attention to his de facto supported who are very much anti-Semites it’s as if he’s condoning the hatred.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally agree with you. Many of us are treating this as an isolated incident. But this is not isolated. So many of the Jews I know have their own personal experiences with anti-Semitism. This doesn’t exist in a bubble, and even before Trump was president anti-Semitism was very much present. But Trump saying that there were “fine people” on the side of neo-Nazis in response to the tragedy in Charlottesville last year gave such hate legitimacy, I fear.

      Like

  4. I do not want to criticize the anti-Semitic folks who are neo-Nazis — because I am on the ‘outside” of them. Where I see it among my folks, my “liberal” friends, and I hope not me — but I know it is possible is a concern for Palestine that masks real growing anti-Semiticism In “virtue.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You bring up an interesting point. That being said, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with criticism of neo-Nazis per se (even if we see some of that within others or within us). Criticism can be constructive instead of destructive (and constructive criticism is arguably a lost art), and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with constructive criticism.

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