‘A blatant and brazen act of pure hatred’

‘A blatant and brazen act of pure hatred’

Thoughts on the mass shooting at a Philadelphia synagogue — and the underlying causes of violence against Jewish people on the part of right-wing extremists

Members of Shabbat Havurah, Brattleboro: On Oct. 27, we experienced the worst anti-Semitic attack in American history. Eleven Jews were murdered during a prayer service in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. As we attempt to deal with this unconscionable tragedy, we pray that the American Jewish community and the country can find some healing.

Unfortunately, this violent attack happened at a time when the Anti-Defamation League has reported a historic increase in both anti-Semitic incidents and anti-Semitic online harassment.

Sending a clear message that bigotry and anti-Semitism have no place in our nation is of paramount importance following such a blatant and brazen act of pure hatred.

Calls for extra security are not the only answer. Rather, we need our political leaders to take responsibility for the divisive, hateful climate being created in the country.

May the Source of peace send peace to all who mourn, and comfort to all who are bereaved. Amen. -Diana Bander, Sharon Dunn and Paul Berch, Yael and Marty Cohn, Lynn and Stephen Green, Marion Dowling and Sidney Johnson, Aylanah Katz, Carolyn and Gary Katz, Honey Loring, Toby Price, Harvey Traison, Enid Wainwright

* * *

Leslie Sullivan Sachs: “How fortunate we are to be attending vigils and not funerals for those we've lost,” my husband says as we prepare to attend a vigil.

Tonight I will be standing in vigil, after a week of feeling stunned by each fresh news cycle, ending with 11 people murdered while gathered in prayer to honor new life.

In the past month or so, I've stood for immigrants, with trans people, with women victims of sexual violence, beside men against patriarchy.

I've marched with people of color, and I've sat in circle with women grieving and enraged.

Often, I think, we gather not because we believe we can change hearts and minds. We are impelled, by our rage and grief, in our need to do something.

I am not black or trans. I haven't had my child torn from my arms. I am not incarcerated indefinitely for fill-in-the-blank. I am not Jewish.

Tonight, I will again stand in vigil with others so I won't be alone with my grief and anger, nor will my Jewish beloveds. We will hold candles, and sing, and listen, and share hugs and tears.

I will show up only with my body and my voice, and from my place of privilege as one untouched personally by this latest horror, to support those harmed simply because of how they were born.

I will be reminded that my chosen community cares deeply. If only for that hour, my heart's despair will surrender some space to love.

* * *

Marjorie Pivar, Dummerston: There is anti-Semitism on the left and the right that could potentially (God forbid) harm our Jewish friends. Jewish college students have been receiving threats on college campuses and do not feel safe. They do not feel protected by their diversity committees.

The Marlboro Graduate School diversity teacher brought a Palestinian activist into four area schools last April during Passover, when observant Jewish teachers and students were not present.

The speaker told an entire generation of local kids - some as young as 8 years old - that “there are a lot of bad Jews.”

She didn't say that there are a lot of bad Israelis. Nor did she say there are good and bad people of every kind.

Yes, this happened. My husband Derrik Jordan and I were there.

To our dismay, the teachers at the Brattleboro Area Middle School all-school event did not raise an objection. The school board discussed the incident, but it was already too late - they took no measures to correct this.

This anti-Semitic ambush planted aspersions against Jews in the minds of almost an entire generation - Democrat and Republican, right and left - in our wonderful liberal community.

* * *

Brandie Starr, Brattleboro: This country as we know it was originally colonized based on the principles of fear - fear of scarcity; fear of religious persecution.

When it wasn't about fear, it was about greed. And even that greed was often driven by scarcity on the part of the monarchy.

Upon arrival, those fears took physical shape in the form of atrocities committed against those indigenous to the land, of wanting the assets of the indigenous people - up to and including the land.

It should be of no surprise to us that currently the level of fear and greed in this country is completely destroying it.

That destruction started happening slowly, when people in the White House at least pretended to hide things from us. Now it happens at an alarming and terrifying rate, all made public via social media - and thank God for that.

The destruction of these systems will be an ugly process. Fear does not release its icy grip easily; neither does greed or of any of its other counterparts.

The love that we will need to show, and the strength of numbers that will be needed, is not only the love of sitting in the grass under the rainbow. It is not only the love of making a wreath for your child's hair or the love of sharing a warm meal.

It is also the fierce, intense love that marches you forward through snow and wind and rain into certain danger to be sure that our most vulnerable are cared for, loved, and supported, and that the systems that bind us all are not destroyed.

There will be room for all expressions of love, and all nurturers, in a rebuilding of a society. But remember that we will also need fierceness - deep, unrelenting fierceness - in that love.

* * *

Shaw Israel Isikson, Winsted, Conn.: With the letter-bomb scare and the Synogauge killings recently, some have said that hate has made a comeback in the United States.

It has not. Hate has always been a problem in the United States, no matter which president in which decade.

What has changed is how hate is encouraged and how people seemingly tolerate it, pausing only to call it out in the moment before turning to something else.

Our president has, on numerous occasions, encouraged his supporters to believe in a culture of hate. Over time, he has encouraged his supporters to hate the media, refugees, people from other cultures and, essentially, anyone who dares to criticize his administration.

Like it or not, our president's words matter. These words, often reckless and careless, can lead to encouraging violence and hate in his supporters.

Thanks to the internet, his supporters can now organize into communities of hate unconstrained by any state or town borders.

This community of hate reportedly encouraged Cesar Sayoc to send mail bombs to former President Barack Obama, former Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, former director of national intelligence James Clapper, and other people affiliated with the Democratic party.

The community of hate also encouraged Robert Bowers to gun down 11 people in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Our society has become comfortable with this increasingly hateful rhetoric. Now, after these hate crimes, people change their profile picture on Facebook to sympathetic imagery (candles, a heart, or maybe some logo). They write something about “thoughts and prayers.” Then, they forget about what happened a few days later.

Then another hate crime takes place - and everything repeats. We become accepting, writing it off as a “political viewpoint” or a “political belief.”

It's neither. Hate is hate. And normalizing it means that more people will be shot and hurt in churches, synagogues, schools, mosques, shopping malls, grocery stores, offices, newsrooms and basically anywhere and everywhere.

If we truly want these hate crimes to end, we can't remain comfortable and accepting. No matter how big or how small, whether a Facebook meme, a Twitter post, or a bunch of bumper stickers, we must call these people out.

And we must do so not only at our convenience.

We must stand up to hate - full-time and all the time.

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