In the Aftermath of the Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting: While We’re Waiting

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Writing comes easiest for me when I am angry. The words ripple in my chest fighting to get out. They tumble onto the screen and settle as if they had been there forever. I don’t recall stringing together effective sentences or finding the perfect metaphors, yet I look up and there they are a reflection of my unsettled heart.

I am angry today. I’ve been angry since Saturday. But the words, this time, have struggled to come forth. A simple trip to a Synagogue, the same trip I make weekly, ended with bloodshed and body bags. I woke yesterday to a news story of a doll hung from a tree in a neighborhood Jewish girls school, dressed in their uniform with a knife through its head. As a Jew in America, I wish to add my voice to the clamor, to express the feelings of heartbreak and fear, desperately so. Hours later the screen remains a blank canvas, the paintbrush brittle and dry. A part of me feels broken inside.

Messages of politics and partisanship ring hollow. Another gleeful round of stomping on whoever belongs to the Party that your views differ from is the double shot of bourbon on top of downing a whole bottle. We were vomiting already. It will solve nothing. It never does. I don’t possess the patience to rail on Senators and Presidents, however misguided they may be. The citizens of this country, the butcher the baker and the candlestick maker, are the only ones that matter. Everything else is akin to radio stations out of your range, offering incoherent static and messy noise.

Many will tell you these were the actions of a deranged vile piece of scum and reflects nothing on the country at large. I do not find it that simple. Maybe the hate has trickled down. Maybe we are focused too much on landing the perfect punch instead of providing the timely hug. Maybe the dark fringes living on Horcruxes have found the blood of a dead unicorn. It’s time to refocus the lens from what divides us and gaze on the values that bind us together. Less derision. More respect.

At its core, this country is a wondrous place. I believe that still. America has gifted the Jewish people, among many others, a safe place to live, to worship, and to thrive. My grandparents, refugees in every sense of the word, rebuilt destroyed lives with the support of a nation that stretched out a welcoming arm at a time when most of the world clasped theirs firmly to their chests. I refuse to accept the notion that these qualities no longer dwell within us.

This past Sabbath in Cleveland, a man arrived at my parents’ synagogue. The congregants were blissfully unaware of the hell unleashed 100 miles away.1 The man knew not a soul sitting in those pews, yet was sobbing uncontrollably and bore a bouquet of flowers. He came to share in the pain of people he had never met. He came to show respect. Most of all he came to say he cares.

This was and can still be the calling card of the American people. People of different faiths and ideas protecting each other. United by our differences. I want that country back. Fight for your views and argue for the policies you believe in, but don’t let it tear us apart. The challenges we are facing today will feel easier to overcome if we stand together. Go out of your way to make a stranger smile. Offer a shoulder for someone to cry on. Practice the biblical dictum “Love thy neighbor as thyself”. Care less about his politics and more about his humanity. Let’s close ranks and drive the darkness back to the cold damp places far from our cities and our neighborhoods. The United States of America. It has a nice ring to it.

  1. As Orthodox Jews we do not make use of any electronic devices on Sabbath and as such were oblivious till Saturday night. []