Response to Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting
Last weekend, hundreds of Jewish Pittsburghers gathered to observe the National Refugee Shabbat, organized by the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS). Drawing on the themes of wandering and welcome found in Lech Lecha (last week’s Torah portion), HIAS organizers hoped that synagogues observing Refugee Shabbat would commit to adopt refugee families and help them settle into their new lives in America.
One week later, the same Jewish community that had gathered to show compassion to strangers was rewarded with a hailstorm of bullets. The perpetrator, a domestic terrorist, walked into a synagogue building shared by three congregations, interrupting a joyous bris with rage and bloodshed.
(This attack came only three days after another domestic terrorist attempted to gun down worshippers at a black church in Kentucky. When he couldn’t get through the church’s locked doors, he diverted to a nearby store and murdered two black people in cold blood. He shot and killed Maurice Stallard, 69, while he shopped for school supplies with his 12 year old grandson, then headed outside where he murdered Vickie Jones, 67, in the parking lot.)
Eleven Jewish people died yesterday, while worshipping the God of Israel on Shabbat in their beloved synagogue, observing an ancient custom that unites us as a people. This marks the deadliest attack on a Jewish community in American history. There are no words sufficient to capture the depths of my grief as a Jewish woman, a mother, and a defender of refugees.
In the twisted logic of an anti-Semite, there is no right way to be Jewish. When Jewish people succeed, we are labeled “globalists,” which is code for: the hooked-nose manipulators of Hollywood, the media, and the global banking system. When we show compassion for strangers or take up the cause of widows and orphans, we are castigated for “opening the door to invaders.” In the mind of an anti-Semite, there is no right place to be Jewish either. When we return to our ancestral homeland, we are branded as “colonizers” and the architects of an “apartheid state.” When our enemies overtake us and send us into exile, we are shunned and shunted into ghettos.
Outside of the land of Israel, only the post-war urban centers of America (and a handful of European capitals) have provided a secure place to live openly as Jews. But even this illusion has begun to shatter. The Anti-Defamation Leagueobserved that there were nearly 2,000 reported and verified incidents of anti-Semitism in America in 2017. This marked a 57% increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes since 2016. In college campuses and coffee shops, extremists from the right and the left have distributed vile literature blaming Jewish people for a variety of societal ills, calling for the dismantling of the state of Israel, or for acts of violence against American Jews. Today, the rhetoric became a reality.
We concluded our holy Shabbat with sadness, rather than joy, because we stand in solidarity with Am Yisrael. An attack on one Jewish community is an attack on us all, regardless of denomination or affiliation. May God comfort the families in mourning today.
Blessed is God, King of the Universe, the True Judge.
- Monique Brumbach, UMJC Executive Director
Later this week, we will distribute exclusive UMJC resources on improving synagogue security to the leaders of our member congregations (including webinars, recorded seminars, and checklists). If your synagogue or chavurah is not yet a member of the Union, please contact me directly via email so that we can assist you, regardless of your congregation’s membership status.