Grieving and standing together

“The harvest is past, the summer has ended, and we are not saved.” (Jeremiah 8:20)

We are in grief, mourning with others across the country along with the Pittsburgh Tree of Life community. We grieve the loss of 11 precious lives, pray for the wounded, and extend our condolences to the families and friends confronting this horror.

We lament the reminder, written in blood, that, in spite of all the hope and solidarity cultivated by leaders of so many communities across the country over these past years, we are all decidedly still not saved.

Yesterday there were five burials. They were for four of the eleven Jews killed in Pittsburgh on Saturday and one of the two Black people killed in Kentucky last week.

  • Jerry Rabinowitz, a doctor, remembered for treating gay AIDS patients with skill and humanity at the height of the epidemic.
  • Cecil and David Rosenthal, brothers, who greeted people at the door of Tree of Life synagogue every Shabbat, beloved by all.
  • Daniel Stein, remembered as a devoted grandfather, father, husband, and former president of the synagogue.
  • Maurice Stallard, father of the Chief Racial Equity officer for the city of Louisville, who was bringing his grandson to get supplies for a school project when he was shot.

ז״ל May their memory be a blessing.

The many who say these murders should not be “politicized” wish that we not put them in any context. That we understand these murders to be isolated incidents – that we turn a blind eye toward the interconnectedness of thousands of outrages before these latest ones ­- rather than recognizing they are perpetrated not only on Jews because they are Jewish, but on Jews and non-Jews who are people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ, Muslim, and countless other targeted identities.

In context, these murders are the latest strikes of white nationalists trying to hold off the forging of an America that values difference. These white nationalists look at freedom, justice, and kindness and see only a plot to regard Black and brown people as worthy of full human dignity, a plot orchestrated by nefarious Jews.

Clear-eyed, once we wipe away our tears, we see how, now more than any time in recent memory, white nationalists have been encouraged, validated, and incited by the words of political leaders and media figures who are irresponsible at best. In public life, we are judged by what we do more than what we feel; how these leaders may personally feel about individual Jews is far outweighed by whether their actions further white nationalism or smash it.

We stand with the Pittsburgh community as we stand with all those around the country who have faced this darkness again and again; stand with the long line of ancestors who have seen this before, and gave their lives so that we may live today.

In our organizing training we teach that change requires power, and that the most trustworthy, generative, and sustainable power is built, not through control, but by organizing larger and larger webs of relationships, combined into communities acting in concert. Already we are seeing this in action: The Islamic Society of Pittsburgh has raised more than $125,000 to cover the funeral costs of all the local victims. Here in Boston, Jewish communities have received heartfelt pledges of solidarity from their partners in local Black churches.

As we continue to grieve, we will also redouble our efforts. Knowing that no act of hate stands alone, disconnected. Knowing that, as others have shown up for us as Jews, we too must continue to show up, louder and more powerfully, for others targeted by hate. We need this web of relational power to continue to expand, in the face of all the threats, and we are responsible to play our role in continuing to build it.

Because we will only be saved when all of us are saved.

Yours,

Elana Kogan                                 Phil Rosenblatt
Acting Executive Director,            Board President,
JOIN for Justice                           JOIN for Justice

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