Every morning as the bus drove up to my school gates, a security guard would get on and do a quick check before we were allowed in. Whilst this routine would seem odd and perhaps overly cautious to those who didn’t go to Jewish schools, I think Jews all around the world are familiar with the practise. Since I can remember, synagogues, community centres and schools have all had security outside. What happened in Pittsburgh this Shabbat was an unbelievably painful reminder why.
The Jewish community truly unites around each other in times of communal grief. One of the praises I often hear about our community is the way we deal with death and devastation; perhaps because over thousands of years we have created strong support systems and traditions following countless tragedies. Pittsburgh is in line with these historical tragedies, albeit in a 21st century sense. Even in these few hours since the atrocity we can see lines being drawn between the current toxic political discourse and the actions of the gunman in Squirrel Hill. Jews in this country too are once again feeling an uncomfortable sense of otherness, but we have the unquestionable comfort that someone as filled with hate as the gunman in Pittsburgh cannot simply pick up a gun and attack us.
Every summer, when I lead camp with my youth movement, we go through security proceedings in case someone attempts to attack us. It is unbearably painful to see what is the worst nightmare of so many Jewish people play out, and it is incredibly frustrating to know that elected officials all around the world are fanning the flames of hatred, and not dousing them. In response to heinous crimes that we cannot understand, we have to stand together as a community. We have to remember that praying at a community shul on Shabbat is something that we all will have done, and that’s why Pittsburgh is so painful.
Jews know what happens when anti-Semitism is left to fester, and the world got a glimpse of that yesterday.
Around the world, we have to commit ourselves to education and the unwavering fighting of hatred so no other community has to go through what the Tree of Life synagogue has.