Pittsburgh (Part One)
The murderous attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh was so terrible it brings tears to my eyes. I grew up in such a congregation (Traditional, a Chicagoan thing) with many old-timers and Holocaust survivors. There are few words to fully convey my feelings and thoughts in wake of the attack, but I do have words, not directly related, but nevertheless been have stirred up in my mind since the attack.

Decades ago I asked a friend: what can be done to get a great number of Jews to leave America and resettle in Israel. He immediately quipped: contribute to the American Nazi Party! I understood the frustration that brought him to think that nothing positive would succeed in encouraging Jews to leave America for Israel. However, I do not believe that the answer is in the direction of duress. Judaism teaches us that one of the unique qualities of humanity is free choice, to freely choose to do what is good. I believe that the Jews will come home from America not because of persecutions or dangers, perceived or real, in the United States, but because of a freely-made choice to return home.

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Even in the wake of the horrendous murders in Pittsburgh, I still believe that the position of Jews in the U.S. is still firm and basically safe, for the most part. I don't see a wave of aliya (literally "going up" to live in the Land of Israel) coming as a result of this attack. The democratic and legal institutions and traditions of the U.S. are still basically strong and there is little or no real physical threat to American Jews that would bring them to the point where they would be on the verge of a huge Exodus. One Neo-Nazi with a bunch of guns doesn't change that.


It seems to me that there is a more insidious form of anti-Semitism presently growing in the U.S. that is very different from the caricatural Nazi-type anti-Semitism. It is the anti-Semitism that negates the right of the Jewish people to have an independent state in their ancestral and modern homeland. Denying the Jewish nation the right to self-determination, the right to return to our own land, is a clear case of singling out the Jewish people for different, or extremely indifferent-to-hostile treatment. It seems to have become popular on campus, starting to be mainstreamed into the media and the Democratic Party, and spreading out to hostility to Jewish students on campus who support Israel. There is a week or two-week "festival" of hating Israel (think 1984 and hating Goldstein), while I haven't heard of a week against any other country.

It may have started from the moral impetus to care for the perceived persecuted underdog – the so-called Palestinians, who in fact are a non-identity, fabricated (originally by the USSR and allies) in order to camouflage the fact that the Arabs in the Holy Land fighting against the Jews were really part of the huge, intolerant Arab majority in the Middle East, that in general treated all minorities horribly, denying them any right to self-determination (think Kurds) or other basic rights (think Yazhidis, Assyrians, Christians and Jews) and was continually threatening tiny Israel with actual destruction and genocide.

However it started, I think it has taken root in and been nurtured by old time hatred of Jews, that hatred that causes people to be willing to believe any libel against the Jewish people, without any basis in fact, just like Europeans have been willing to believe the worst about Jews for millennia, whether it be the blood libel or poisoning the wells and a myriad of absurdities they were willing to believe against the Jews. The modern-day blood libels of apartheid, genocide and racism, hurtled at the only Jewish state in the world, are a direct continuation of those ancient and medieval libels.

Let me return to the Jewish community in Pittsburgh. From afar I send my feelings, from the deepest deep of my heart: we are all with you. Not only now, but always; it's just that now, in times of distress, the solidarity comes out. May we meet in family and spiritual solidarity in good tidings.


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