By Marcia Bronstein
The massacre at the Tree of Life building last year left American Jews feeling raw and vulnerable. That it happened in our state touched deep into our souls. That it occurred in a house of worship made it unfathomable. In Philadelphia, we reacted to the Pittsburgh shootings very personally.
Along with non-Jewish allies who rallied in solidarity after the Pittsburgh shootings, through AJC’s #ShowUpForShabbat initiative, the Jewish community felt fortified. Launched only hours after the murder of 11 worshippers during Saturday morning services, #ShowUpForShabbat highlighted the strength and support of allies for the Jewish community. People of good conscience in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and in more than 80 countries around the world participated.
In Philadelphia, Peter Longstreth, honorary consul of Uruguay and the director of the Consular Corps, urged diplomats to participate. In Maple Glen, Congregation Beth Or welcomed Mexican Consul General Alicia Kerber. She attended the Shabbat services with her two daughters and husband to stand in solidarity and friendship. She brought her family because she wanted them counted among those who are outraged by violence and hate.
At Melrose B’nai Israel Emanu-El, where I attend services, state Sen. Sharif Street stood side-by-side with the congregation along with two of his staffers. Street is vice chair of the Pennsylvania Democratic Committee. When he spoke from the pulpit, he passionately shared his visit to Tree of Life after the shooting and the need to deal with hate and violence and protect religious institutions.
This year, Congregation Beth Emeth in Delaware will be welcoming U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester as they commemorate the anniversary of the worst mass murder of Jews in U.S. history. Each person who decides to #ShowUpForShabbat will be touched and moved, and each person will have a story to tell about why they chose to come, how they experienced hatred and violence, and why they want to be counted as an ally with the Jewish community. As we participate together, we will be strengthened.
Together with allies, we will continue to raise voices against anti-Semitism and hatred and provide a mechanism for healing. And healing is needed because six months after the Tree of Life shooting, the Chabad House in Poway, California, was attacked, also during a Shabbat service, on April 27. One congregant was dead and the rabbi injured, but it could have been much worse if the shooter’s gun had not jammed.
People of good conscience recognize that anti-Semitism of any kind not only threatens Jews but American society in general.
AJC Philadelphia/SNJ Region and the City Council of Philadelphia, on Oct. 24 at 9 a.m. in the Mayor’s Reception room, jointly kicked off commemorating the first anniversary of the Tree of Life massacre, to honor the memory of the 11 Jews who were killed while in their house of worship on Oct. 27, 2018, and advocate for a world free of anti-Semitism, hate and bigotry.
AJC is dedicating Oct. 27 as an official day of action against anti-Semitism, a day for educating others about hatred and advocating for more robust measures to combat it.
Widespread empathy and continuing joint efforts to fight hatred of Jews is inspiring and reassuring but action is needed. Among our action steps are working with interfaith partners to create a coalition to stand up against hate through the congressional No Hate Act; launch a Community of Conscience, a first responders group of allies who will work against hatred and acts of violence; and commit to working with elected officials in the battle against rising hate in our society.
The #ShowUpForShabbat initiative was the largest-ever expression of solidarity with the American Jewish community. At the lowest moment in American Jewish history, Jews discovered that they were not alone, and on the one-year anniversary, AJC is again calling on all people of good conscience to #ShowUpForShabbat. Together we must gather, remember and act.
For more information, or to see the list of participating synagogues, visit ajc.org/showupforshabbat.
Marcia Bronstein is director of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) Philadelphia/Southern New Jersey Regional Office.