There are few words to describe the shock, devastation and anger that I and many other people across the nation and around the globe are feeling in the aftermath of the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA, in which a neo-Nazi murdered 11 congregants and injured six other people this past Saturday.
I was not born into Judaism. I was not born into the generational trauma that exists as a result of the Holocaust and thousands of years of antisemitism, and I think that is very important for me to acknowledge. That being said, in the last year or so, I have chosen to become a part of the Jewish community, and so this hits very close to home. I imagine this happening in my synagogue, in the place where I feel the happiest and most loved and supported, and I am saddened and afraid.
More police officers in our places of worship won’t assuage my fears. In fact, they have the potential to make Jews of color feel unsafe and ostracized from their own communities. Thoughts and prayers are very much appreciated, but they won’t magically fix the increasing levels of antisemitism that we’re seeing on a national scale. We have to acknowledge that white supremacy is at the core of this attack on American Jews and do all that we can to fight it.
Rhetoric has consequences. We cannot pretend there is no connection between the normalization of everyday antisemitism, whether it be the Republican party’s vilification of George Soros or Trump’s bold use of the antisemitic dog whistle “globalist,” and the rise in antisemitic crimes. We cannot passively ignore these things in favor of “civility,” not when Jews are massacred in their place of worship, not when families are separated and children held in cages, not when black men are shot in the streets, not when rapists get off scot-free, not when indigenous people are forced off of their land, and not when the rights of LGBTQ+ citizens are threatened by the administration.
We must organize and stand up to white supremacy and bigotry in all of its forms if we are to fight antisemitism.
Understand that antisemitism was here long before Trump. Trump may be a particularly upsetting manifestation of white supremacy, antisemitism, and racism, but he is only a symptom. To fight white supremacy, we must challenge and disrupt the structures that support it. Voting may be the easiest and most immediate way to do this that comes to mind, but we can also organize, learn, and spread awareness. Some great Jewish organizations fighting for justice include Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ) and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), which was named by the Nazi attacker as a reason why he despises Jews.
In this troubling time, listen to your Jewish neighbors, and all of us who have been affected by other forms of bigotry and oppression. Do not give up. As the Yiddish saying goes, “Mir veln zey iberlebn,” or “We will outlive them.” May their memories be a blessing.