Personal Story

Reflections From Pittsburgh: A Family’s Tragic Encounter With Anti-Semitism

May 6, 2020

The following reflection was written by a young Jewish woman whose family was tragically murdered by a white supremacist in the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on October 27th, 2018.

Throughout my life, I have mostly only encountered minor acts of anti-Semitism. From my peers inquiring about my small nose, to Holocaust jokes that were never very funny, to being accused of killing Jesus, I never invested much thought into the preconceived notions associated with these comments. Not until October 27, 2018 did I fully comprehend how serious of an issue anti-Semitism is in the modern world and how persistent it is in American culture.

My family was murdered while at Saturday Morning service at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on the aforementioned October day. Talking about this monumental event in my life has been difficult and carries with it much emotion for me.

My family was murdered by a white supremacist that dedicated his life to hating and destroying Jews. The shooter strategically planned what happened on October 27th, a haunting thought for me to even process. Losing family is hard enough; losing family to murder is hard enough; but losing family to white terrorism creates an emotionally incomprehensible scenario that I wish no one else ever has to experience. Unfortunately, there are many that can relate to my story. Although white supremacy has existed consistently throughout history, I have learned that this hateful doctrine is thriving in our world today.

My fears and hesitations have been redefined by this event. I think often about all of the people in this world who hate instead of love. I think often about how we have failed to justly convict criminals who commit white terrorism, including Nazis and other war criminals who have committed genocide and yet escaped justice.

I must also reveal that my Jewishness has been redefined. I also find myself more inclined to participate in social justice activities and to be a more welcoming person to others. Now more than ever, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to be an ally for the Jewish community, and also for other communities that fall victim to white terrorism.

Learn to be an ally, promote love, and be brave. Not until we normalize speaking out against hateful stereotypes, microaggressions, racial jokes, and yes – violience informed by bigotry, will we see a change. Although perhaps at times scary, we must all be the change we wish to see in the world.

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