When I first heard the news, I couldn’t fully internalize what had happened.
Shabbat had just ended. The warm scent of cloves and sickly sweet grape juice still lingered over the table. I checked my phone–for the first time in 24 hours–and I remember barely glancing at the notifications at the top of my screen before swiping them away.
I saw the words “shooting” and “Pittsburgh,” but thought it was just another run-of-the-mill act of violence that we have become so accustomed to in this country.
I still mourn the fact that I have become so desensitized to bloodshed and violence that I didn’t even bother to read the entire headline.
I remember my parents talking about it as we tidied up the house, washed the dishes, and prepared for the long week of work and school ahead. But I only listened with half an ear. I didn’t pay attention to the details.
I regret not being more attentive.
I’m sorry that I was too caught up in thinking about essays, tests, and Instagram posts, and lost those first few hours to grieve with my family and community.
It took about twelve hours before I actually sat down to read about what had happened. For the next day and a half I fell down an Internet rabbit hole and developed a grief fueled obsession by reading anything and everything I could find about the victims.
I sat in classrooms, but wasn’t really there. My mind was 400 miles away.
Members of the Jewish community are singing together in a very moving scene outside Tree of Life Synagogue. pic.twitter.com/HIM5xAq4la
— Phil McCausland (@PhilMcCausland) October 30, 2018
Between lectures I was glued to my phone. Refreshing every news source and media outlet I had access to.
That whole week stills feels like a bad dream.
I sought comfort in the words of people I had never met, but were still family. Bound together by shared pain and history. I read poetry, listened to music, and watched as vigils around the world were live-streamed. I craved a sense of community because I had never felt like more of an outsider in the country I call home.
It’s been one year since eleven Jews were murdered in the worst antisemitic hate crime on U.S. soil and the American Jewish community is still reeling.
Since October there’s been a security guard posted at the entrance of a small elementary school near my house. I pass the school every day on my commute to Queens College and feel an odd mixture of relief and dread when I see the guard at his post. I know that he’s there to keep the children safe. But he is a reminder that we aren’t safe. That the next time this happens—and I believe it will continue to happen if we don’t take active measures to prevent it— it could be at my sister’s school, my family’s synagogue, or the local Jewish Community Center.
Politicians, pundits, and activists attempted to foist the blame on anyone but themselves. Everyone rushed to point fingers instead of reflecting on what they had done to foster antisemitism.
Vice President Mike Pence even had the chutzpah to invite a messianic “rabbi” to share a prayer in honor of the victims at a campaign rally. Interfaith dialogue is important but there is a time and a place for it. This was neither the time nor the place.
Also, inviting the defrocked “rabbi” only added insult to injury since Messianics are not Jews, they are a group of Christians that try to lure uninformed and unaffiliated Jews into converting to Christianity. The erasure of the Jewish identities of the victims was insensitive and ignorant. The “rabbi” didn’t even mention the names of the victims. But he did mention Pence in his prayer for the Republican party. I guess party politics is more important than the memories of the murdered. But our dead are not pawns or props.
Which presidential candidate will speak up?
Not with empty platitudes or hollow calls for gun control reform.
We don’t want prayers or thoughts or condolences.
Stop using umbrella terms like “bigotry” and “xenophobia” and call it what it is: antisemitism.
Want to fight it?
Here’s how: be open–and honest–with yourself and those around you about it. You can only fight evil once you name it. You need to acknowledge that the system is broken before you can even begin to fix it.
Let’s fix it together.