Reflections on Pittsburgh by Eli Perlin

In the past week our country has seen the hate that lives within it. On Wednesday a man shot and killed two people in a Kroger store because they were African-American. During this time, bombs were being mailed to Democratic officials by a man who had spewed hate online towards minorities. Then on Saturday morning a gunman shouting antisemitic slurs killed 11 people attending synagogue. In the course of 72 hours, America witnessed three attacks of terror urged on by hatred.

While these attacks are horrific, they do not surprise me. We live in a time where concerts, nightclubs, schools, and places of worship have been attacked. These places are all supposed to be safe. My entire life I have seen these places been attacked. For me, every one of these attacks has brought many emotions; sadness, anger, confusion, but never surprise. The world that I have grown up with has been filled with these kinds of attacks. Unfortunately, these attacks have become normalized.

In a time where antisemitism and hate against minorities is increasing, these attacks continue to become more normal. Instead of facing the fact that there are people in our country that are filled with hate, we ignore it. We come up with excuses, we tell ourselves this will never happen again and it could not possibly happen to us. It is a harsh and scary reality, but the country we live in has people that are full of hate.

It is not a question of if another attack will happen, but when. Every child growing up now sees these attacks. Between social media and the large news presence in our society, it is almost impossible not to see or read about these attacks. And almost every child asks why. When second graders are confused and ask their Sunday School teacher what happened this weekend, it is upsetting. It is sad to know that the country they will grow up with is so filled with this hatred. For me these attacks have become normal, for them will these attacks even matter or will they just be part of living in America?

It is our job to make sure that we remind ourselves and our children that this is more than just 11 people killed. They were two brothers who always greeted people on shabbat services, they were a 97-year-old who liked attending services with her granddaughter, they were a couple that had been married for more than sixty years, they were a man who was ready to start retirement, and they were a man who was so excited to be a grandfather. We need to recognize that each victim still has their own individual identity. Making sure we remember them as people not just victims is how we make sure these attacks do not become normalized.

Knowing 11 people died this weekend is important, but it’s more important to remember that a community lost 11 souls that cannot be replaced. When we reduce people to statistics, it normalizes these events. We need to understand that each person had a brother, sister, aunt, cousin, friend, son or mom that was affected by this horrific event. By remembering them as people we teach everyone that every life has meaning. Only then can we start trying to heal and fix our country.

Written by Eli Perlin, Social Justice Chair of Orr Shalom High School Executive Youth Board