First of all I want to thank those of you who have reached out to me by email or message in recent days. I very much appreciate people thinking of me.
While I didn't know anyone at the Tree of Life synagogue, many of my friends and colleagues have spent time in Pittsburgh; all of them knew the synagogue and a couple of them knew people who died on Saturday. The Jewish community is very small, especially at a time like this.
On the one hand, this event is another in a long list of antisemitic incidents throughout history. There is just is something unique and seemingly permanent about Jew-hatred, and we really do need to see antisemitism as an ongoing hatred that sometimes lies dormant but remains just below the surface. The number of antisemitic incidents has increased dramatically in just the past couple of years, and the situation is frightening, given the historical record.
On the other hand, there were several white supremacist acts of violence just in the past week: the pipebombs sent to media and Democratic Party figures, and the shooting deaths of Maurice Stallard and Vickie Lee Jones in Louisville, KY. The murderer in Pittsburgh specifically referenced the support of the Jewish community for refugee support and resettlement as a motivating factor for his act, showing the connections between this act and other forms of racist hatred and violence.
In other words, contemporary antisemitism in America - while unique, and uniquely disturbing - is part of a larger upsurge of white supremacy which targets (literally) Latinx folks, African Americans, Muslims, Jews, liberals and progressives, journalists, LGBT folks, and more. We can only resist this by building connections between all people who are affected by it and those members of the white, Christian population who are willing to stand against it with us. That last piece is really vital: the difference between racist violence that the majority population doesn't care about or act on and that which the majority population actively resists is profound, and can literally mean the difference between life and death. And that resistance, those connections, must be built not just when Jews are targeted, but when (as was the case last week) African Americans are targeted as well – or immigrants, or Muslims. We are all in this together.
KIFA's role is to build those connections, that solidarity, among people who might not ordinarily interact, based on our sacred teachings that everyone is equal in God's eyes, deserving of protection and care. Solidarity is literally the most important defense we have, and it requires nurturing, especially in times like these. Let our determination to build those connections, and to stand together against all manifestations of racist violence and hatred, be our watchword going forward.