Kol HaTnua - Voice of the Movement Hatred and Fear Have No Place in the World: Tree of Life, 5 Months Later.
It was October 27, a Saturday morning unlike any other. As I was laying in my bed, skipping services like any typical son of two rabbis, I saw a news notification flash across my phone that shook me to my core. It read “Shooting Reported at Pittsburgh Synagogue”, my body froze and I did not know how to react.
My first question was which synagogue? As I went on Twitter, I prayed it was not my father’s synagogue, Beth El Congregation, a conservative synagogue found in the suburbs of Pittsburgh. I soon found out that it was not my parent’s synagogue but one that was twenty minutes from my house named Tree of Life. Stunned, I tried to call my parents hoping they knew of what was happening across the city and hoping they had already evacuated. Once my family was safe, I began to think of the aftermath and how Pittsburgh will react. Then one question entered my mind: What effects will this have on the Pittsburgh Jewish community? The answer is still being debated in my head.
As the son of two prominent rabbis, I have created connections with many members in the Pittsburgh Jewish community, and I know how tight-knit it is. I was at Tree of Life a week prior to the shooting for a friend’s bat mitzvah, and I saw how familiar all the members were with one another. Seeing this horrible act of anti-semitism and hatred saddened me to see how people were reacting. I was disgusted by the retweets that followed the same message, “screw your thoughts and prayers, go make a difference and vote”.
Although I agree that our country is in desperate need of stronger gun regulation and this tragedy only strengthens the argument, there is a time and place for words like that. I knew that thoughts and prayers could go a long way with the victims’ families and their communities because of how intimate the Pittsburgh Jewish community is. Seeing those tweets angered me, as it had not even been twenty-four hours since the attack, and people were already turning it into a political weapon. I tried my hardest in the aftermath to spread this message of thoughts and prayers, but it––unfortunately––did not go far.
Now, almost a month later, Pittsburgh is not the same, Beth El in particular. Before the shooting, every Shabbat, Beth El would have its doors wide open, welcome for all. Now, the doors stay locked needing approval to enter with an armed guard roaming the building at all times. Now, I fear practicing my own religious beliefs. If I cannot safely pray in my own city, then where can I? And now, I fear for my parents and my own community because Pittsburgh is not a safe place for religion now. The violence spread across America has come to strike the Jewish community in the heart, and now, Pittsburgh will never be the same.
But after six years at Midwest and two in Tel Yehudah, Young Judaea, if anything, has taught me that hatred and fear have no place in the world. We, as Jews and as Americans, cannot let this violence win. Young Judaea was founded on the idea of unity and that is what is needed throughout the country right now. To quote Gandhi, “We must be the change we wish to see in the world”. Old or young, rich or poor, it is our duty to end this anti-semitism and show the world that the Jewish people will survive and thrive.
~ Myles Greenbaum is a senior from Pittsburgh, PA