Last Saturday’s massacre in Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue did more than kill 11 innocent people and injure six more. It represented the unavoidable truth that no country – including the U.S. – is immune to the global rising tide of anti-Semitism.
Like a volcano that smokes and sputters in the days before it spews its scorching lava, Robert Bowers was but another symptom of the simmering hate in our country as he yelled, “All Jews must die.”
It’s up to you and me, my friend, to cool that hate. To start, let’s remember these people who represent the wider evil of anti-Semitism:
Much More Than Victims
David Rosenthal, 54, and his brother Cecil, 59, were the youngest victims in the Pittsburgh shooting. They shared an apartment for disabled people through ACHIEVA. “They loved life. They loved their community,” said Chris Schopf, ACHIEVA’s Vice President of Residential Supports.
- Melvin Wax, 88, was a retired accountant who helped congregants with their taxes each year and typically was the first to arrive at the synagogue for services. He died as he exited a closet to ensure it was safe for several others to come out.
- Richard Gottfried, 65, was president of the Tree of Life Synagogue. He also ran a dental practice with his wife of almost 40 years and worked as a volunteer dentist. His nephew Jacob tweeted after the shooting, “My uncle was murdered doing what he loved, praying to God.”
- Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, was a primary care physician who was killed as he ran to help those already shot. “He had a moral compass stronger than anyone I have ever known,” said his medical partner, Dr. Ken Ciesielka.
- Daniel Stein, 71, was a retired teacher who had recently become a grandfather and was known for his generosity and helpfulness.
- Rose Mallinger, 97, was the oldest of the 11 Jewish people murdered as she worshipped. As usual, she sat at the Sabbath service with her daughter, who also took a bullet but survived.
- Joyce Fienberg, 75, was a retired researcher for the University of Pittsburgh and an avid volunteer. She was also the aunt of Hollywood Reporter TV critic Daniel J. Fienberg, who wrote, “Nobody loved chronicling our family like my Auntie Joyce.”
- Bernice Simon, 84, was known for baking delicious cranberry orange bread that she shared with everyone. She married her husband Sylvan, 86, in 1956 at the Tree of Life Synagogue, where they died together.
We must stop hate from bursting through
In 2017 alone, the anti-Defamation League reported a 57 percent increase in documented anti-Semitic acts in the United States – the largest single increase in the three decades of tracking.
Ben Shapiro, Jewish editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire and outspoken conservative speaker, accurately described what is happening: “America is the most tolerant and accepting and loving country the Jews have experienced, outside of Israel, in the long span of recorded time.
“But the curse of anti-Semitism never leaves the Jews. Even in the United States, hatred of the Jews is on the rise. That rise is indicative of a deeper problem of the Western soul. As Western civilization tears itself apart, anti-Semitism comes bursting through the seams. That anti-Semitism … can only be fought by choosing life,” said Shapiro.
The way to quell this increase is found in individuals – you and me. As President Trump said while repeatedly condemned the shooting, “We must stand with our Jewish brothers and sisters to defeat anti-Semitism and vanquish the forces of hate.” He urged Americans to “rise above the hate, move past our divisions and embrace our common destiny.”
No one understands this truth better than Tree of Life Rabbi Jeffrey Meyers. When pressed to blame President Trump’s rhetoric for the shooting, Myers said, “I don’t really foist blame upon any person. Hate does not know religion, race, creed, political party. It’s not a political issue in any way, shape or form.”
You can help “Vanquish the Forces of Hate”
Please pray with us and stand in the gap on behalf of Jewish people everywhere. We’ve been called to love the Jewish people, to bless the Jewish people and – most importantly right now – to pray for their safety and their salvation.