During assembly on Tuesday, November 6, juniors Rafi Brent and Jon Sky spoke about last week's shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Their presentation was made under the auspices of the Current Events Club. Here are their prepared remarks:
Last week in assembly Mr. Abbott mentioned the horrific attack that took place at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. The attacker walked into the synagogue shouting “all Jews must die,” and murdered eleven members of the congregation, committing the single greatest act of anti semitism in American history. While his victims lay dying, the shooter was treated by Jewish doctors and nurses at a Pittsburgh hospital. He survived and has been charged with a 44 count indictment, including 11 counts of murder and federal hate crimes.
The reaction of American Jews was shock, but the event was not entirely unexpected. This is partly because mass shootings in seemingly safe environments have become more and more common over the past decade. They had taken place in churches, schools, Sikh temples, and movie theaters, but never in a Synagogue.
The Pittsburgh shooting was not just a random occurrence, it confirmed the worries among American Jews of a rise in anti semitism. I’m sure many of you have heard the widely used statistic from the anti-defamation league stating that “the number of such acts increased by 57% from 2016 to 2017”. Much of this is due to the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, where hundreds of protesters gave Nazi salutes, waved swastikas, and shouted “sieg heil”.
Though it would be inaccurate to compare America’s current political state to that of 1930’s Nazi Germany, a country’s level of antisemitism can often be cited as a gauge of political health. This is because Jews have always been a tiny minority in the countries in which they reside, excluding Israel. As Adam Kirsch of the Wall Street Journal put it, “Jews have been a longstanding symbol of difference.” For these people, it is not possible to survive in a society that is unaccepting of pluralism.
The only place in the world with a sizable Jewish population that does not share a long and vicious history of anti-semitism is the United States. Jews from around the world have sought freedom from persecution and have thrived here. This freedom was almost unimaginable in the oppressive societies of 19th and 20th century Europe and the Middle East.
Before we jump to conclusion that we are entering the same path taken by these countries, we must consider mainstream America’s reaction to this most recent event. Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders immediately held interfaith ceremonies in cities throughout the country and raised money for the victims. Political leaders, Republican and Democratic, seemed to forget about the midterms for a few minutes and attended ceremonies together.
We will never be a homogeneous state. Americans must continue to embrace the benefits of pluralism which have been core values since our founding.