Response to Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting

Published October 31, 2018 by Rabbi Mike in Other News

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 groceries, then headed outside where he murdered Vickie Jones, 67, as she loaded groceries into her car.)

Eleven elderly Jewish people were murdered yesterday, while worshipping the God of Israel on Shabbat in their beloved synagogue, observing an ancient custom that unites us as a people.

  • Joyce Fienberg, 75
  • Richard Gottfried, 65
  • Rose Mallinger, 97 (Holocaust survivor)
  • Jerry Rabinowitz, 66
  • Cecil Rosenthal, 59
  • David Rosenthal, 54
  • Bernice Simon, 84
  • Sylvan Simon, 86
  • Daniel Stein, 71
  • Melvin Wax, 88
  • Irving Younger, 69

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. Yesterday, 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

1 Response to “Response to Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting”

  1. Andy
    November 2, 2018

    When the Rabbi mentioned the attack during our Shabbos service, I just wanted to cry, and my eyes did tear up. When I went home to read the news, seeing two people who were Holocaust survivors, that I recognized from many a show about the horrors of the Holocaust, who were brought to tears and the horror that ‘here we go again’, I felt compelled to pray. I have a prayed a lot over these passed days since the attack, and have spoken others around the city about this. I took our youngest for lunch at a local Jewish eatery, chatted with the young man behind the counter, and was reassured by this young man, that there would never again be a next time, another Holocaust, if he and his former soldiers of the promised land had a say about it.

    It is a sad reminder that the hatred that we all were taught about at school and by our families, has not ever really gone away. So many have suffered and died because of hate, so many of our people, and though it is all too easy to put our hopes in the promises of world leaders and kindly meaning people, we must remember that in all this, the only hope is in the Lord.

    It is also important that we realize that as a people, we must bring ourselves together, to stop the divisions, and unite as one strong force of prayer with total and absolute faith and trust in the Lord. This battle of good and evil, as the Rabbi has said so many times, belongs to the Lord.

    The loss of even one Jew is not okay. The murder of anyone is never okay. However, our time in this world is only a stepping stone to the wonderful existence with the Lord that will come. Keep strong, pray, and never give up hope, my fellow Jews.

    May the Lord be with the families who mourn, and give strength to all his people, wherever they may be. Blessed be the Lord , King of the Universe, Creator of all things, and the one and only god. Amen.


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