Today was supposed to be the celebration of a big rivalry: Browns vs Steelers at 1 p.m. In Pittsburgh. What a game.
My friends planned to drive over to tailgate and wave the brown-and-orange back at their Terrible Towels. We say we “hate the black and gold.” Who knows better than a Cleveland fan what it is to suffer time and again at the hands of a bitter rival.
But all this innocence was taken away from us with the deathly machine guns that broke the prayerful silence yesterday. A peaceful Shabbat was devastated by hate, when an evil man terrorized a Pittsburgh synagogue and murdered so many. First, I think in horror of all the people I know and love from this city, so close to my hometown, where we grew up, went to camp and school and youth groups together.
Our minds, perhaps in an attempt to make some sense of this horror, move into excuse mode. Enough — I’ve read this morning a deluge of excuses, telling us of “dormant hatreds being awakened” and the “need to reexamine our value of human life.” Attempts to protect ourselves from the violence with reasons.
It’s comforting to know that we are all horrified by murder. Especially violent killing that is fueled by hate. But enough with the political outrage and the personal hand-wringing. This is not a result of political preferences, or who’s more socially conscious. Let’s be honest: It’s an act of base hatred for the Jewish people. Wherever we are, and whoever we might be. “All Jews must die,” its reported that the murderer yelled as he burst into the synagogue. A baby at his circumcision? I imagine the mother of that young boy, a grandfather holding him during the service, lifelong leaders of a congregation gathered to pray and to worship God quietly and with reverence. This belief system, our Judaism, thousands of years old, is the target of hate, and this hate can reach any of us at any time.
My prayer for us is: Embrace our Judaism. Stop making excuses. Do not hide behind the comfort of slogans that provide a sense of protection, that make us feel if we only do such-and-such, it won’t happen to us. Hatred is blind. Or rather, it is blind to the differences we inject into our beings, descriptions that try to distance us from one another. We are all the same. We are Jews. We are descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We are a link in a rich heritage that would not let go, for oh-so-many generations. Let us embrace that together.
We’re all in this together — how true. I do not care for the discussion over whether this is antisemitism or antiIsrael. It is one and the same for this generation, and for our purposes right now. Long ago anti-Semitism meant that the people of Canaan rejected Abraham’s revelation that there is a God, starting the first monotheistic society and threatening the pagan lifestyle. That shifted to a religion-based anti-Semitic cry, heightened in the Middle Ages and followed by the racism of the 20th century that wiped out so many, simply because they were Jewish. Today’s racism hides behind geopolitical language and gives us more of the same — hatred of Jews and calls to be rid of us once and for all, as occupiers or colonialists or whatever the flavor of the day.
Centuries of Diaspora have not displaced our historic bond to each other. It is Israel that has reconnected all of us, regardless of what shade we are.
Hatred takes on many hues, and we are witness to this in Pittsburgh yesterday and in Jerusalem today. This is more than a political issue, the very definition of hate in our time. I ask, what have you done about the law that is on the books in the Palestinian Authority and in some Moslem countries, one that states selling land to Jews is illegal, and that the punishment for this ultimate crime is death. Simple as that. Look it up yourself. Right now, the latest example is an American-Arab-palestinian — let’s call him Abe. Abe was arrested by Abbas’ forces and he faces the death sentence today… His crime? Involvement in selling land — to a Jew.
What have you done to rage against this hate-based law, to save this man’s life, today? Today, the Israeli government began its weekly Cabinet meeting with a moment of silence for Pittsburgh’s murdered Jews. Tomorrow the Knesset debates the palestinian audacity to kill men for real estate transactions. Both are because the people are Jews. How dare they.
We aren’t going anywhere. And no matter our political preference, social beliefs, religious piety — we are all colored “Jewish” and we should wear that distinction with pride. Heck, my beloved Cleveland Browns take on the black-and-gold Pittsburgh Steelers today — an afternoon of relatively ancient rivalry. Instead, I’ve been busy with the NFL working out not only a moment of silence in deference to those who paid with their lives yesterday simply because they were Jewish, but to a larger message across the country: Race, religion, beliefs — these are no excuse for hate crimes, and we will not sit silent while Jewish people are massacred simply for being Jews. Anywhere.
So watch the football game today at 1 p.m. EST, drop your head in silence to honor those who were massacred in the name of hate. Enjoy the rivalry of the two cities and then vow to do something to express your connection or support of Judaism. Go to synagogue next Saturday. Greet your neighbor with ‘Shabbat Shalom’, invite someone in for a meal. Celebrate our pride and join with your brothers in an act that defies political gain, a simple show of love of your [fellow] Jew. And then tell us about it in the comments below so we can share and be inspired to action of our own.
Dedicated to the memory of our Pittsburgh brethren, who paid the dearest price for their Jewish identity this week.