Viewpoint: Political biases overshadowed true Jewish passion for aggrieved
November 16, 2018
erally pulled my car to the curb, listening to determine the city in which it occurred, and sat until I could gain my composure. A lone gunman attack on a synagogue at 10 a.m. on a Saturday morning. A baby naming in progress? Children in school? Worshipers in the sanctuary? Total disbelief. This is America, not Argentina; not France; not Turkey or Africa. We don’t live within the vestiges of this level of brutality. A heinous act encompassing the most blatant anti-Semitism in the purest of senseless evil. An evil that is not comprehendible by civilized people. A “religious” evil: ingrained thru rote and exacerbated thru constant indoctrination.
As the facts evolved, we were “relieved” that the carnage was not worse. ONLY 11 adults, mostly seniors. Thank G-d, no children... ONLY adults, Jewish adults attending the most sacred of venues at the most sacred time of their week. A pair of brothers in their 50s; a husband and wife in their 80s; a single woman of 97. But no one was counting the emotional toll on the hundreds directly related to the tragedy... or the emotional toll on all of American and world Jewry.
I needed Tuesday’s memorial gathering, trying to make sense out of the senseless. Beautiful tributes to the fallen and their community; heartfelt condolences expressed by a broadly based group of religious leadership, all directed toward the Jewish community as a whole; a soothing, though non-satisfying interlude. There was explanation of Judaism’s memorial prayers and their levels of comfort and confidence that G-d provides security and leadership in life. However, no one acknowledged that this horrendous act was another extension of ancient anti-Semitism, brought to bear in a contemporary manner, without rhyme or reason, just hate.
Why do Americans justify this historical evil with contemporary explanation? Anti-Semitism has been prevalent since the beginning of recorded tribal history. Since the dark-to-middle ages, Jews have been the scapegoats for society’s ills. At some point, every Western society’s ultimate collapse was attributed to Jewish influence. And, today’s anti-Semitism is readily equated with anti-Zionism and anti-Israel bias. The contemporary movements of BDS, college campus discrimination and attacks, Muslim radicalism that has stimulated horrendous activities from Pulse, to San Bernardino, to New York City, all portend the prevalence of anti-Semitic violence. We seem to forget the attacks on the Holocaust Center in D.C.; the JCC in Oakland Park or Los Angeles; and countless others. We discount the influence of social media’s ability to disseminate historical hatred on a completely innocuous basis, for fear of upsetting “free speech” or relegating “censorship” to Facebook, Twitter, and Google. All but removed from consideration is the violent entertainment content available to all levels of contemporary society. Every bit of this contributes to the prevalence and expansion of contemporary anti-Semitism, societal hate, and denigration of our social norms.
Tuesday evening’s memorial closed with two speeches—one to berate our “leadership” and all public representatives about the deterioration of contemporary public discussion, reinforced by audience applause as a show of support. The second and closing speech was a “call to action” to combat this vitriolic distortion to public discourse. This, followed by the closing hymn “We Shall Overcome,” a recognized spiritual from Dr. King’s famous marches, served to further stimulate “social/public” activity. However, the closeout of the memorial tribute neglected to issue acknowledgement, much less condolences to the fallen and their loved ones. There was no closing expression of sympathy to the Tree of Life Synagogue family. And most significantly, there was no concluding effort to salve the pain felt by our greater Jewish community.
Tuesday evening’s community gathering started as a heart-felt memorial tribute to our Jewish brethren, attacked in a synagogue on Shabbat, in the middle of contemporary America. Our Jewish community needed a time for grieving; a time that Jews could find solace in coping with the emotional impact from one more historical act of hate against our People. However, when contemporary “political issues” overshadow the historical perspectives of anti-Semitic evil; or, the pain and suffering of the families, the synagogue, and our community as a whole, perhaps it’s time for a deeper evaluation of our community’s true Jewish soul.
Howard Lefkowitz lives in Winter Park, Fla.