The Raw Reality of Anti-Semitism


Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf attends a rally for peace after the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. Around him are religious and political leaders from the Pittsburgh area. (Courtesy of flickr.)

As a practicing member of the Jewish faith, the October 27th shooting at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh hit me hard. My sister and mother were at synagogue at the time of the shooting and, for the first time in my life, I was scared that a member of my family was in danger.

At 9:54 that Saturday morning, Robert Gregory Bowers entered the synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood and opened fire on the congregants, killing 11 and injuring 7 more, including himself and 4 police officers. Bowers was a vocal anti-Semite who promoted white supremacist ideology and raised alarm about the approaching migrant caravan, calling it an “invasion,” on his social media feeds.

Eighty years ago this month, the Nazis ransacked Jewish owned stores and synagogues on the infamous Kristallnacht or Night of Broken Glass. Although when we hear the words “anti-Semitism” we think about the Nazis, the Pittsburgh attack validated a fear that many Jews and non-Jews alike have, that violent anti-Semitism is not a thing of the past.

On the weekend of November 10th, I spent a weekend at a meeting of Jewish youth group leaders in Jacksonville. We were told to not share our location with anyone for safety reasons. We were afraid. We could no longer gather without fears of the worst.

The shooting in Pittsburgh exposed the anti-semitism that has long bubbled under the surface. Anti-Semitism has long been a verbal issue where bigots use their words to hurt the victims. Now, it seems that anti-Semitism is becoming violent.

For some reason, our politicians seem unwilling to take the surge seriously or take step to stop it. Our leaders weakly proclaim their thoughts and prayers for the victims and families while ignoring the problem. At a vigil in Dunwoody, Karen Handel, former House representative for the district, made an token appearance and left before the event ended. The vigil was a mere week and a half before election day. The Jewish community viewed her appearance as a campaign stop rather than a serious paying of respects.

Instead of standing idly by and enabling this continued anti-Semitism, our leaders need to stand up and say that it is unacceptable. Politicians shouldn’t say that there is “blame on both sides,” politicians must condemn neo-Nazis and the alt-right. Politicians shouldn’t remain silent when blatant anti-Semitism and hate gets spread across the internet. Politicians should stand against hate in any form, by meeting with leaders of the Jewish community and find a way to stop anti-Semitism. Politicians should condemn these acts as what they really are, domestic terrorism.

For my entire life, I’ve been taught to be proud of who I am but now, that sentence comes with an asterisk, be proud of who you are unless you are in danger. Despite this, I will remain proud of who I am, a proud member of the Jewish faith.