407-645-5933 ext. 236 marisa.west@shalomorlando.org

The Jewish Community has long been a member of the extended family of gun violence victims, and today that family grew tragically once again. As Jews around the United States participated in observance of Shabbat at their local synagogue this morning, we were devastated to learn that our brothers and sisters in Pittsburgh became the latest in a long and sad list of victims of a hate crime in our country.

At this time, reports indicate that as many as eleven people have been killed and many more injured, including law enforcement personnel. Our hearts are with the families of the victims and all of Pittsburgh as they begin their journey on the road to recovery. May the memory of those lost be for a blessing.

Hate and violence do not exist in a vacuum. From what we know so far, this person acted alone, but he did not become a violent anti-Semite by himself. Anti-Semitism is nurtured by the spread of conspiracy theories and dog-whistles — something that is becoming all too common and frighteningly acceptable in the public discourse. The Jewish community knows all too well that hateful rhetoric begets hateful actions.

This was not the first such incident at a house of worship, and if our leaders do not take action, it will surely not be the last, either. The refusal to acknowledge and effectively address the scourge of gun violence in our communities is a stain on our nation. It’s no coincidence the same military-style semi-automatic weapons are used over and over again in these massacres; their purpose is death, and those who do nothing to stop the spread of these weapons of war on our streets dishonor the victims.

Ethnic and religious minorities are no strangers to hate, and we are thankful for the elected officials, law enforcement personnel, and leaders of faith and ethnic communities who have reached out to offer condolences and assistance. With our heavy heart comes a fierce determination to work together to eradicate hate permanently.