BY NANCY MAZMANIAN
Photo courtesy of AP Images. Protesters demonstrate near Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue where President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump were visiting a memorial in Pittsburgh, Oct. 30, 2018.
Eleven people were killed and seven injured on what seemed to be another Shabbat morning service at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
At 9:50 a.m. the members of the Tree of Life – Or L’Simcha Congregation were charged at by a gunman who made anti-Semitic statements during the shooting and targeted Jews on social media, according to federal investigators. The suspect entered the sanctuary shouting, “All Jews must die,” before opening fire and destroying the lives of 11 innocent people. All due to a difference of opinions.
This, the most recent, of hate crimes committed within America is no less tragic than what happened at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, or a traditionally black church in Charleston, South Carolina, or arson at a mosque in Austin, Texas, or the countless other tragedies motivated by differences such as race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender or gender identity.
These events that can only be defined as “hate crimes” are the highest priority of the FBI’s Civil Rights program, not only because of the devastating impact they have on families and communities but also because groups that preach hatred and intolerance can incite the spread of terrorism here in our own country.
In an open letter to President Trump, from the leaders of a Pittsburgh-based Jewish group, Bend the Arc, stated that “for the past three years your [President Trump] words and your policies have emboldened a growing white nationalist movement. You yourself called the murderer evil, but yesterday’s violence is the direct culmination of your influence.” The letter also said that “Trump was not welcome to Pittsburgh after the shooting until he denounced white nationalism and stop directly targeting minorities in his speeches and policymaking.”
The polarization within America is worse now than it’s ever been. This issue is far too complex to simply be labeled as a “guns issue” or something else for that matter. As a society, we must practice empathy, understanding how other people feel who are different from us. We must put ourselves in other people’s shoes and be sensitive to their needs. We must guard our words and be kind because these 11 individuals, who were most recently killed, could have been one of our very own.