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pittsburgh

Here I am, three days later, and still angry. Scared. Terrified, in fact.

But I realize, I’m not terrified at the notion that a madman might come shoot up a synagogue, mosque, church, school, community centre. Even though all these things have happened and keep happening. Terrorism is still — thankfully — relatively rare. And living our lives in fear of random violence makes no sense. We might as well lock ourselves indoors and never cross the street again, since the chances of getting hit by a car are many, many times higher.

No, it’s not the threat of random violence, as horrible as it is, that has me afraid, angry and raging at the world. It’s the way the world has reacted to it. Is reacting to it.

We’ve seen this far too many times before. After Charlottesville. After Pulse in Orlando. After the Quebec City mosque shooting. After Sandy Hook, Parkland, Las Vegas, Charleston, Sutherland Springs… heck, even after the Polytecnique massacre. For a couple of days, there’s an outpouring of support, people send their condolences and change their profile pictures and tweet with solidarity hashtags and attend candlelight vigils. And say things like “never again”.

I used to let myself dare to hope that, in the aftermath of these tragedies, a tipping point would be reached where people might say “enough”… and something might actually change for the better. But I don’t hope for that anymore. Because I know better.

In the aftermath of the worst attack of Islamophobia in Quebec history, there was a collective outpouring of support and grief for the Muslim community. And yet, not even two years later, a bunch of xenophobic assholes in ridings where they’ve probably never met anyone from a religious minority went ahead and elected a government that campaigned on a platform of Islamophobia and race-baiting, that has promised to pass a law restricting religious symbols that would effectively ban freedom of religion for all minorities, and that claims to be doing it because “it’s what the majority wants”.

Two days after a gunman shot up a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Trump is dialing up the anti-immigrant, anti-minority rhetoric. And last night, amidst a very moving show of unity in the Montreal Jewish Community, a speech referenced Trump and a not-insignificant part of the crowd applauded.

Applauded.

Let that sink in. Jews, here in Montreal, at a vigil to remember the victims of the worst antisemitic terrorist attack in US history. Applauding a president who has claimed he’s a “nationalist”, who says that neo-Nazis in Virginia are “very fine people”. Who has based his entire political career on vilifying the other, on dialing up hate rhetoric, on destroying the independent media, erasing minorities, and trampling on human rights. Who holds rallies, including one right after the shooting, that wouldn’t be out of place in 1930s Germany. (And yes, I am saying that deliberately. Even Mike Godwin, who coined the term “Godwin’s Law”, has publicly suspended it, claiming it doesn’t apply when we’re talking about ACTUAL Nazis.)

Even in the darkest days of the 1930s, I can’t imagine any scenario where a group of Jews in a German synagogue would’ve applauded Adolf Hitler.

There are midterm elections in the United States next week. Americans claim to be reeling from this tragedy, as well as from a hate-motivated double-homicide in Kroger and an unprecedented mail bomb plot. And yet, polls suggest that they’re poised to re-elect a Republican House and Senate. And they justify it with nonsense they see on FOX News about how it’s not the president’s fault that this hate rhetoric has gotten so out of hand, and domestic terrorism doesn’t scare them but a caravan of desperate migrants from Honduras does.

Here in Canada, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer is trying to unseat Justin Trudeau with similar tactics to what Trump is using down south. He’s attacking the media as “fake news”, attacking immigrants, attacking minorities, drumming up fear and division instead of inclusiveness and tolerance. And he may well win on that platform.

Then I look at the world. Brazil. Most of Europe.

And I look right here at home. At my friends and neighbours who say words like “solidarity” and yet are perfectly comfortable with a law that would fire teachers for wearing hijabs or kippot. Who can’t see the hypocrisy in wanting public holiday celebrations for Christian holidays, a cross in the National Assembly, and yet think that “religion should be private” for people who may not believe as they do. And who can’t make the connection between their xenophobia and the twisted hateful rhetoric that leads to tragedies like this one.

So no, I’m not scared because a madman shot up a synagogue. I’m scared because the world seems to be steadily marching towards fascism, and I can’t for the life of me figure out how to stop it.

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Hundreds of members of the Jewish Community packed the Beth Israel Beth Aaron shul in Cote St Luc last night for a vigil to remember the victims of the Pittsburgh Tree of Life shooting. The memorial, organized by Federation CJA and CIJA, was attended by politicians of all stripes and representatives of the municipal, provincial and federal governments.

If you couldn’t be in attendance, here’s a video stream of the full ceremony:

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Pittsburgh Jewish Community to Trump: You’re not welcome here

10.28.2018

Pittsburgh Jewish leaders to Trump: You’re not welcome here: “Our Jewish community is not the only group you have targeted,” the group wrote. “You have also deliberately undermined the safety of people of color, Muslims, LGBTQ people, and people with disabilities. Yesterday’s massacre is not the first act of terror you incited against a minority […]

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Penguins support Pittsburgh

10.28.2018

The Pittsburgh Penguins are setting a good example on how, in the wake of tragedy, actions speak louder than words. Much respect. “The team announced on Sunday that it would hold a blood drive on Monday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and would cancel its annual Halloween-themed festivities at Tuesday’s game, instead opting to […]

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On empathy, tragedy, and the eleven victims of the Pittsburgh shooting

10.28.2018

Reading the obituaries of the 11 murdered victims in the Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting and all I can keep thinking about is how these people sound so familiar. Richard Gottfried was a dentist around my parents’ age. He ran a 10km race every year. He also had a nephew in BBYO, the same youth organization I […]

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Trump fans: Yes, this is your fault

10.28.2018

This piece in The Atlantic makes the direct link between Trump’s anti-migrant hysteria and the shooting in a Pittsburgh synagogue that left eleven people dead yesterday: Before committing the Tree of Life massacre, the shooter, who blamed Jews for the caravan of “invaders” and who raged about it on social media, made it clear that […]

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Pittsburgh shooting: Actions, not words

10.27.2018

If you’re struggling to make sense of the horrific violence of today’s Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, a few thoughts: Judaism has never really been a “thoughts and prayers” kind of religion. It’s an action religion. Judaism teaches that we are all judged by the way we behave towards our fellow human brings, and the things we […]

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We minorities are in this together

10.27.2018

More than ever, we need to stop petty squabbling between minority groups, and unite together to fight hatred, xenophobia, and white supremacy. This shit’s only gonna get worse before it gets better. An article in the Forward reminds us that we can’t focus on attacking one another when this is our collective fight: American Jewish […]

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Pittsburgh synagogue shooting

10.27.2018

Four thoughts on this morning’s shooting in a Pittsburgh synagogue: 1. Of course it was a hate crime. 2. Yes, Trump incited it. 3. We’ve seen this before. 4. It’s gonna get worse. Much worse. We Jews are sick of being the canary in the coal mine. We have lots of experience at it. 2,000+ […]

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