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October 2018: Statement on the Tree of Life Synagogue Shooting
Our hearts go out to the families and friends of those murdered praying at the Tree of Life Synagogue
Today the ICJS mourns with the American Jewish community, and we remain committed to combating the evils of anti-Semitism. Our county has witnessed one of the worst attacks on the Jewish community in its history. Our hearts go out to the families and friends of those eleven people who were murdered praying at the Tree of Life Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
According to the most recent FBI data, American Jews have been the victims of 54% of hate incidents that target religious minorities. The ADL has reported a 60% increase in anti-Semitic incidents this past year against American Jews. Yesterday’s assailant, Robert Bowers, is reported to have said “All Jews must die,” as he gunned down people in worship. It has also been reported that Bowers told a SWAT officer that Jews were responsible for plotting a genocide against white people.
Sadly, Bowers’ rhetoric and actions are not isolated incidents. Violent and murderous acts in the name of white supremacy in our country are on the rise. They reflect a growing trend over the past two years. Echoing the chants Charlottesville’s neo-Nazis who shouted “the Jews will not replace us,” Bowers tweeted, several hours before this massacre, that “HIAS likes to bring in invaders that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.” HIAS stands for the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. Established in 1881, it is a non-profit that provides humanitarian aid and assistance to refugees.
In the midst of this most horrific moment for the American Jewish community, we are reminded that murderous hate has arrived at the sacred spaces of other religious communities. We recall the recent massacres of the nine African-American worshippers at the Mother Emmanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina, the six Muslim worshippers at the Quebec City Islamic Centre and the six Sikh worshippers at the gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Just a few days ago, police arrested Gregory A. Bush in Jeffersontown, Kentucky, after shooting two African-Americans in the parking lot of a Kroger grocery store. Only a few minutes before the shooting, Mr. Bush tried to enter First Baptist Church, a predominantly African-American church.
In the midst of this dark hour, we must confront the violent hatred festering in our society by holding fast to our mission at the ICJS to educate and illuminate how our religious differences are a force for good.