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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 belonged to as a teenager.

Joyce Feinberg was Canadian, from Toronto. Her late husband was a statistics professor at Carnegie Mellon. She, like so many members of Montreal’s Jewish community, became more involved in the shul after her husband’s passing.

Daniel Stein, a new grandfather and past president of the shul, shared my last name. No relation to me as far as I know, but then again, who knows? I look at the photo of him and think, he looks not unlike my father, my uncle, my family. He wasn’t related to me. But he could have been.

Melvin Wax was an accountant, just like my father and grandfather. A family friend described how he used to do the taxes for his daughters for free, as a favour, just like they did / do.

These victims are not statistics. They feel as real to me as people just like them who I’ve known all my life.

I’ve seen other friends talk about how close to home this has hit them, more than other horrible mass shootings or even similar hate crimes that have targeted other groups in the past months and years. And I admit, I feel that way too.

And then I feel guilty for feeling that way, because every life is as valuable as the next. I don’t live in Pittsburgh and I didn’t know any of the victims. Why am I more affected by this than I was by shootings in an African-American church, in a Quebec mosque, in a gay nightclub, in a daycare centre? Those were horrific crimes too. And they obviously upset me.

And yet, somehow, this feels different. More personal. This feels like someone was targeting my people, my family, my community. We Jews — religious or secular, Orthodox or Conservative or Reform, practising or not — are all connected in this inextricable way where we feel an attack on any of us like a punch to the gut. Because I keep thinking, that could just as easily have been my community on a shabbat morning, on a High Holiday service. My friends, my neighbours. My people. And because I feel like this wasn’t an isolated incident, but a signpost in a rising tide of hate and insecurity that we as Jews are facing with this global wave of fascism. Because this threat isn’t something in a history textbook or a story told by our grandparents’ generation, but is very real and very present.

And then I wonder, if every community mourns in isolation from one another, how will we ever truly connect? How can we unite in the face of this global wave of hatred, racism and fascism? Because we’re gonna need to. None of us can do it on our own. We don’t have enough strength as individual groups. We need each other.

And how exactly is that going to work if we can only seem to emotionally connect on this level with an attack on our own people?


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 he was furious at HIAS, founded as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, a Jewish group that helps resettle refugees in the United States. He shared posts on Gab, a social-media site popular with the alt-right, expressing alarm at the sight of “massive human caravans of young men from Honduras and El Salvador invading America thru our unsecured southern border.” And then he wrote, “HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.”

The people killed on Saturday were killed for trying to make the world a better place, as their faith exhorts them to do. The history of the Jewish people is one of displacement, statelessness, and persecution. What groups like HIAS do in helping refugees, they do with the knowledge that comes from a history of being the targets of demagogues who persecute minorities in pursuit of power.

[ . . . ]

“As for those who aided the president in his propaganda campaign, who enabled him to prey on racist fears to fabricate a national emergency, those who said to themselves, ‘This is the play’? Every single one of them bears some responsibility for what followed. Their condemnations of antisemitism are meaningless. Their thoughts and prayers are worthless. Their condolences are irrelevant. They can never undo what they have done, and what they have done will never be forgotten.”

Trump has been deliberately inciting this violence and fanning the flames of hate in order to win votes. He not only knew this would happen, he wanted this to happen. He stacked the deck and then waited for these cards to flip over. And flip, they did.

If you don’t acknowledge the link, if you support Trump, if you stand by and let it happen, then yes, this is on you.


We minorities are in this together


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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On Charlottesville and Trump


Godwin’s Law doesn’t apply when you’re talking about ACTUAL FUCKING NAZIS. I’ve tried to think of something coherent to say about Charlottesville, and my rage just keeps getting in the way. I’m a white person who benefits from structural racism every single day, and if I keep my mouth shut about it, I’m just perpetuating […]

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StatsCan: Hate crime is up


The number of hate crimes reported to police increased by 42% between 2008 and 2009: While hate crimes remain primarily motivated by race (and black Canadians remain the most-targeted by hate crime), the data also showed the number of reported hate crimes perpetrated against Arabs and West Asians doubled (to 75 from 37). There was […]

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Antisemitism is now a side-effect of drunkedness?


Warning to those of you who like a few glasses of wine with your meal: Apparently, virulent antisemitic ranting is now a side-effect of alcohol consumption. First, Mel Gibson. Now John Galliano: The French fashion house Christian Dior said Tuesday that it had started procedures to dismiss its chief designer, John Galliano, following accusations that […]

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Quebec is an open, tolerant society, but…


That’s what most Quebecers will tell you, anyway. But the recent “reasonable accommodation” hearings have shed some light on the dirty little secret of xenophobia that keeps creeping up here. And now, we have some new poll results on antisemitism with discouraging, though not altogether surprising, results: According to the poll results, 41 per cent […]

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And the rant goes on…


The province-wide racist rant-fest, under its guise of “reasonable accommodation” hearings, continues – this time, with some charming remarks from the folks in St-Jerome: “It’s really a mentality that’s separate,” St. Hippolyte resident Lise Casavant said of the Hasidism, adding that immigrants should sign a new Quebec citizenship charter “or choose another province,” a sentiment […]

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“Jewish lobby” strikes again


The all-powerful “Jewish lobby” we keep hearing about (but that has thus far failed to get me a centrally-located indoor parking spot or a good discount on shoes, among other things) has struck again… at least, according to these folks: Black youth activists in Toronto are blaming the “Jewish lobby” for the decision yesterday morning […]

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Jewish Community Campus bombed


Just in time for Passover: A homemade bomb exploded in front of a Jewish community centre last night, causing a scare but no injuries or damages. The bomb went off in front of the door of the Ben Weider Community Centre on Westbury Ave. about 11 p.m., blackening the pavement outside without touching the building. […]

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