The deadliest attack against the Jewish community on American soil occurred on Oct. 27. Perhaps it seems like there is a pattern here as we woke up to yet another senseless mass shooting that has shocked our nation. Eleven people were killed and six were injured in the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. I will not use the suspect’s name because I do not believe he deserves to be mentioned; however, he was a 46-year-old white male who had a history of making anti-Semitic remarks through social media. Specifically, he used a social network called Gab, which, according to their website, is an ad-free social network dedicated to “preserving individual liberty, freedom of speech, and free flow of information on the internet.” The website is frequently used by “alt-right” activists who feel they need a safe space to spread their hate — ironic, don’t you think?
As a member of the Jewish community, this isn’t just another mass shooting for me. This was a targeted hate crime of a minority group that has never been welcomed in this country. As it has been throughout the history of discrimination against the Jewish people, I feel that we are never truly safe. Not even in the “Land of the Free” can Jews feel comfortable to go to a Shabbat service without worrying about their safety. According to the Anti-Defamation League, “The number of anti-Semitic incidents was nearly 60 percent higher in 2017 than 2016, the largest single-year increase on record and the second-highest number reported since ADL started tracking incident data in the 1970s.” Anti-Semitism is on the rise in the United States, and this attack confirmed that it is not slowing down.
This may have been quite shocking to many non-Jewish members of our community, but for me and other Jews I know, it comes as no surprise. Why is it shocking that a person with right-wing tendencies would feel emboldened to attack Jews? President Donald Trump stated in August of 2017 that there was “blame on both sides” after a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., where swastika banners and slogans such as “blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us” were displayed. When people argue that words don’t matter, I would point you toward the president’s statements. While I am not saying that there is a definite correlation between President Trump’s comments and this mass shooting, he has undoubtedly emboldened white supremacists in America.
Am I a hypocrite because it took an attack on members of my own faith for me to be outraged? Absolutely. I should have been more pissed off about gun violence long before this occurred. I hope that I do not just move on after this article is published. I hope that I do not accept the status quo. I hope that I hold my representatives accountable for their role in these massacres. I hope that college students vote like their lives depend on it in the 2018 midterms and beyond, because they do.
Although I hope that we address the relentless amount of mass shootings in our country, I am not here to give my opinion on that.
Saturday confirmed that anti-Semitism is alive and well in this country and confirmed, for me, the necessity that is the Jewish state of Israel. While it is not a perfect country, it is a place where Jews can be generally safe. I am a Jew, and I am proud of my heritage and culture, but today I am afraid.
It is important that I do not end this piece talking about me. We just lost 11 members of the Jewish community. They were dedicated members of their synagogue. Richard Gottfried, 65, was a dentist who accepted patients who were underserved and uninsured. David and Cecil Rosenthal were brothers with developmental disabilities who greeted those in attendance with a warm smile and a “good Shabbos.” Daniel Stein, 71, had just recently become a grandfather. Bernice and Sylvan, 84 and 86, were a married couple who died together, in the Saturday NYT. All 11 people had stories and lives that mattered. May their memory be a blessing.