Yesterday was the day when a gunman not much older than myself burst into a synagogue and opened fire, while yelling his intentions to kill Jews.
I visited the website for the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh. Their home page, unchanged I might add-- as it was before the murders-- says in part:
"We offer a warm and welcoming environment where even the oldest Jewish traditions become relevant to the way our members live today. From engaging services, social events, family-friendly activities and learning opportunities to support in times of illness or sorrow, we match the old with the new to deliver conservative Jewish tradition that’s accessible, warm and progressive."
In times of sorrow jumped out at me. I scroll down on the page and I see a post from a Rabbi Myers that was just published in July. He begins, "Current news recycles at a dizzying pace...". A couple sentences later I see "Parkland students"... with a lump in my throat and my eyes beginning to well up, I only scan the page because in the moment I can not stomach reading too carefully. And then a few paragraphs down... this:
"Despite continuous calls for sensible gun control and mental health care, our elected leaders in Washington knew that it would fade away in time. Unless there is a dramatic turnaround in the mid-term elections, I fear that that the status quo will remain unchanged, and school shootings will resume. I shouldn’t have to include in my daily morning prayers that God should watch over my wife and daughter, both teachers, and keep them safe. Where are our leaders?"
Fast forward three months to the horror that occurred in that very synagogue. Within hours of Saturday's event, when reporters asked Donald Trump (in so many words) if it might be time to revisit gun laws Mr. Trump said, "Well again, this has little to do with it if you take a look. If they had protection inside the results would have been far better."
What a stark contrast to the Rabbi's words, also in the same July 2018 post:
"Our school students deserve better. Immigrant families deserve better. We deserve better."
I haven't exactly taken a survey of who goes to a church or synagogue where there are armed guards posted. Whether during a specific event such as (in this case) a baby naming, or just on a regular basis to protect worshipers during daily service... to my knowledge an armed guard is not the norm. I don't care if Trump was only trying to suggest that it should be the norm, because instead I am trying to put myself in the shoes of the families of the victims. Which I never can. However, I hope they can hear my prayers... and the prayers of any clear minded person in the universe... that your congregation should not under any circumstance take any responsibility for the horror that occurred. Even if the President of the United States himself suggests otherwise.
Where do we as a country draw the line at "if a victim had...[insert any number of ideas]... then the results would have been far better."
I do not know the city of Pittsburgh very well at all. I visited the University when I was going through the college process because I couldn't decide between U Pitt and Ithaca (I'm very aware of the fact that they have next to nothing in common). When I went to visit each of them I liked Pittsburgh but Ithaca was love at first sight. So I don't have any ties to the city of Pittsburgh but I don't believe anyone needs a personal connection other than being human, and recognizing this horror for what it is.
But as a parent of a young man with fragile x syndrome... and as a parent of a young man with fragile x syndrome who just became a Bar Mitzvah less than three months ago, this feels like it hits very close to home.
To loosely quote part of the Mourner's Kaddish, I wish you all abundant peace in heaven. May G-d shelter each of you with the cover of His wings forever.
In alphabetical order:
Joyce Fienberg, 75 years young
Richard Gottfried, 65 years young
Rose Mallinger, 97 years young
Jerry Rabinowitz, 66 years young
Cecil Rosenthal, 59 years young
David Rosenthal, 54 years young
Bernice Simon, 84 years young
Sylvan Simon, 86 years young
Daniel Stein, 71 years young
Melvin Wax, 88 years young
Irving Younger, 69 years young