It is hard to imagine terrible things happening in our own community. Temple Sholom is, for myself and many others, a second home. We consider it a safe place to be. We would never expect something tragic to happen in a place like this, with such a large community and so much security. When the seventh graders that I help teach at Sunday school were reminded of this yesterday, they were not relieved. More than anything, they were confused. What happened in Squirrel Hill, Pennsylvania on Saturday was an attack on our community, on our family. And to the 12- and 13-year-olds who are growing into this community, it just doesn’t quite make sense. The overwhelming sentiment from the students when our class discussed what happened was, “Why do people hate us so much?” “Why do so many people want us dead?” “What did we do wrong?”. And I don’t have an answer for them. They are scared and confused because this injustice has no explanation. They know the shooter yelled hateful things about Jews. They know that one of the members of the Tree of Life Synagogue community survived the Holocaust but only narrowly missed this attack because he was running late to services. They don’t understand why something like this is happening in our country, in 2018, to people like them.
These kids, and myself, are growing up in a time of turbulence and highly publicized violence. We want everything to have an explanation and root to trace it to, but sometimes it is more simple than that.
The truth is, this is not political. This cannot be blamed on a single party. Most importantly, this is not a reflection of something new. This is just pure hatred. This is an attack on our people. This is the murder of our family. An individual with nothing but anger and hatred in his heart took 11 Jewish lives on Saturday.
This is a reminder to come together regardless of political beliefs. This is a reminder that we must constantly fight against violence. This is a reminder to advocate against hate of any kind. As Jews, we are obligated to fight for freedom, liberation, and justice, for ourselves and for others. We will come out of this with remembrance and strength and bravery and motivation, because we always do.
Written by Sophie Rhodes, Orr Shalom Youth Executive Board Co-President