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Pittsburgh Massacre Sparks Fear and Sorrow Throughout the US and the World

Ellen Levitt

Posted on October 27, 2018 23:05

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Saturday morning, October 27, a man entered the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA and shot many people. Eleven have died, several are injured. The shooter shouted anti-Semitic slogans. This horrific hate crime is a shock to people but it reflects several frightening elements in our society.

This Saturday morning, like most others, I attended Shabbat (Sabbath) services at my synagogue in Brooklyn, the East Midwood Jewish Center. Rabbi Matt Carl, our clergyman, led a spirited discussion about the Torah chapter we had read, which included the birth of Isaac. Several congregants participated in this lively talk.

But toward the end of our service, when people were about to recite the Mourner's Kaddish, a prayer in memory of deceased family members, he informed us of a horrific shooting that had occurred in a Pittsburgh synagogue, Tree of Life, just this morning. We were all shocked and saddened. We added prayers to our recitations and filed out of the service in a somber mood.

Throughout the day more details came public about this man who, in a fit of unbridled anti-Semitic venom, walked into a Conservative Jewish synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood, where Saturday morning prayers and a baby-naming ceremony were taking place, and used an AR-15 and handguns to stalk and kill congregants. He also shouted anti-Semitic slogans as he perpetrated his evil crimes.

Eleven people were slaughtered, in a house of worship, and for no good reason. They were chosen to die and be injured because they were Jews.

There are so many things wrong with this scenario. The crime reflects huge, grotesque problems in the United States. It reveals the worst of humanity.

What can we delve into here? Hatred and one of its oldest manifestations, anti-Jewish prejudice. The spreading of racist hatred on social media. The seemingly unchecked use of guns and ammunition and the virulent anger that stokes it. The lack of safety we feel even in a place of prayer and community. The psychological illness of a man who resorts to gross, violent actions to make social and political points. 

This massacre did not happen in a vacuum. There have been shootings in churches in other parts of the United States in recent years. In 2015 nine people were killed in a church in Charleston, South Carolina. In Sutherland Springs, Texas 26 people were shot to death in a church. There have been way too many school shootings in recent years, and shooting sprees in the Pulse nightclub in Florida and elsewhere.

People came together for a vigil to grieve publicly for the dead in Pittsburgh, and solidarity vigils took place in New York City, New Jersey and several other sites in the United States and outside. People took to social media to express sorrow, fear, anger, disgust, and offer "thoughts and prayers" for the victims and their families.

But there are even bigger and knottier problems: how can our society stop these events from occurring in the future? How can we avoid thinking of these incidents as sad but unending? We cannot normalize these. We must not.

I will continue to attend Saturday morning services at my local synagogue, which I have attended since 1971. Fear will not stop me, nor us. It must not.

Ellen Levitt

Posted on October 27, 2018 23:05

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President Donald Trump mourned the dead and forcefully condemned anti-Semitism Saturday after a mass shooting at a Pittsburgh...

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