Peace. Serenity. Warmth. The calm before the storm.
A community built on faith, mutual respect, and love was violated on Saturday, October 27th, when a man entered a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh, murdering 11 people. He disgraced their place of worship, completely destroying the sense of safety the Jewish community felt in their celebration of faith. A Sabbath that started with joyous worship, instead turned sour with death, injury, and fear.
The peace was broken by suspect Robert D. Bowers, who apparently held one assault rifle and at least three handguns. Lashing out with anti-Semitic language and loud threats, the assailant is now facing 44 counts of murder, hate crimes, obstructing religious practices, and more. Unfortunately, this hate rhetoric comes in the midst of a bitter midterm election surrounded by surging hate crimes and speech. In fact, this horrific incident closely followed Friday’s arrest of a man suspected of sending pipe bombs to critics of President Trump.
Long gone are the days of peaceful discussion and disagreement. Vitriolic diatribe has taken our country within its claws and sparked violent disputes nationwide. How can we feel safe in our communities if our basic human rights are being violated? How do we reach a point where our freedoms are respected and not violated?
I don’t know.
Moving forward amidst tragedy after tragedy can feel hopeless. Pointless. Like a waste of time. It may inspire you to get out in your community, campaign, vote, and try to make a difference. Everyone’s initial reaction to events of this severity is different. And that is okay.
However, if you truly want to make a change, it must start with you. You must be willing to get out to the polls and exercise your right to vote for change. You must go out into the community and hold your government representatives accountable for the initiatives they promised us. You must be willing to speak up if you hear someone use hateful or derogatory speech. Because if not you, then who? We are all in this fight against injustice together. We must make our society better for those who are coming after us, just like our ancestors paved the way for us.
Our hearts go out to the Jewish community, and all who were affected at the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill. Rest in peace to the following victims.
Joyce Fienberg, 75
Richard Gottfried, 65
Rose Mallinger, 97–Holocaust survivor
Jerry Rabinowitz, 66
Cecil Rosenthal, 59 and brother David Rosenthal, 54
Bernice Simon, 84 and husband Sylvan Simon, 86
Daniel Stein, 71
Melvin Wax, 88
Irving Younger, 69