Mort Laitner

Handwriting on the Wall

Driving down Pittsburgh’s urban streets and alleys, I looked for signs.

Not the printed words found on placards.

I wanted to see the graffiti of the lost souls–the homeless prophets of the street.

Scrawled on one wall, “Steelers Say Never Again!”

On another white-washed wall read, “Jewish Lives Matter! Don’t they?”

Across the street, I focused on yellow paint splattered on red bricks,

“What would Belshazzar do?”

And right below those words I read:

Buy First Temple vessels at Dan’s Pawn and Loan.

The homeless knew their Bible.

As I approached Squirrel Hill a wall read,”This Passover two bitter herbs—one red and one white—one for slavery and one for anti-Semitism.”

Scribbled across an abandoned red brick wall,” On the last night of Hanukkah light an additional yellow candle honoring the Pittsburgh 11″

Closing my eyes, I daydreamed about burnt white boards of an old Mississippi Baptist Church.

I saw the handwriting on this stained wooden wall.

Had I seen these words before on a cathode ray tube, on a black and white Zenith.

Of course I had, in September of ’63, the Klan murdered four young Black girls at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.

Fifteen sticks of dynamite blew these girls to bits.

Blasting Christ’s words off of this churches’ walls.

Twenty-two survivors huddled together clothed in a shroud made of slivers and shards of yellow, blue, red, green and orange stained glass.

Kristallnacht had reached America.

Just as it had in Charlottesville.

When torch-bearing American Nazis marched down the city streets chanting, “Jews Will Not Replace Us” and “Blood and Soil.”

And as the counter protesters fought with the Nazis, local law enforcement stood by and watched.

All to reminiscent of what the German police did during Kristallnacht—stood and watched as temple walls covered in the commandments and Jewish blood fell to the ground.

These emboldened Neo-Nazis had written on the walls of the University of Virginia, “Jewish Blood will cover the soil of this White Nation.”

And so it has!

How could we honestly say, “We didn’t see it coming!”

Splattered across the trunk of the “Tree of Life,” eleven red-stained Sefarad-fonted names appeared on the I-didn’t-see-it-coming-wall.

Had I seen these Jewish names before?

Of course I had—long ago.

On the civil-rights branch of the “Tree of Life” appeared the names of Chaney, Goodman and Scherner.

These three men, abducted in 1964, and shot at close range by the Mississippi White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan as law enforcement watched.

The Pittsburgh 11 were not the first Jews to die in the States because of their religion.

They were only the latest .

And the writing on the wall cried out, “They won’t be the last.”

The media proclaimed a new record had been set—11 dead Jews, killed on their Sabbath in their house of worship.

Remember what happened in our schools— the numbers of student deaths kept growing—bigger and bigger and bigger.

The writing on the wall screamed, “The next white supremacist murderer will try to break that record.”

On our Jewish wailing wall, I also saw a black and white photo of limp body hanging from an oak.

It was the body of a white male—blind-folded with his hands bound.

I examined the rope that snapped the neck of Leo Max Frank—the only known Jew to be lynched in America.

Thank G-d a record that has not been broken.

During “Tree-of-Life-week,” blood also spilled across Kroger aisles—warm Black blood soaked into the Kroger walls leaving what some exclaimed, “That looks like handwriting!”

The bigoted gun-toting assailant tried to bust down the doors of a black congregational church.

When he failed, he marched over to Kroger, shot and murdered his two Black victims.

Their splattered blood appeared in the form of warnings, “Vigilance, preparation, lock your doors tight and buy protection.”

Driving in our South Florida neighborhoods, his signs of madness were plastered to the bumpers and doors of an white 1990’s Dodge Ram van.

The insignia horns of the Ram blasted out three notes, “Driver Is Nuts!”

A pipe bomber moving wall—a mad dog shrine to the god of crazy.

Inside the Dodge, he built 14 pipe bombs in a room papered with swastikas.

Who let these canines out?

Why are they being allowed to desecrate our sacred American vessel?

Where are the wise men to interpret these hateful sanguine scribbles?

Where is Daniel—when he is needed:

To translate these nationalistic messages written in cold-blooded lead;

To weigh these hateful acts on the scales of silver or gold;

To tell us too much has already been written on too many walls

and to tell us what to do about it.

About the Author
Florida's Jewish short-story writer, speaker, film producer and retired attorney. He has authored, "A Hebraic Obsession", "The Hanukkah Bunny" and "The Greatest Gift." He produced an award-winning short film entitled, "The Stairs". Movie can be viewed online. ChatGPT says, Mort is known for his works that often explore themes of love, loss, and the human connection. Laitner has published several books , including “A Hebraic Obsession.” His writing style is characterized by its emotional depth and introspection. Laitner’s works have garnered praise for their heartfelt expression and keen insight into the human experience. Mort is in his third year as president of the South Florida Writers Association. He was a correspondent for the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel Jewish Journal.
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