By Steve Rosenberg
It is hard to believe we will observe the fourth anniversary of the slaughter of 11 innocent Jews gunned down in Pittsburgh while praying on a Saturday morning Shabbat service at Tree of Life Or L’Simcha in my hometown of Squirrel Hill.
By now, we all know the sickening story of a deranged psychopath looking to kill Jews. It’s a tired story we see repeated time and again.
After every occurrence of antisemitism, we are outraged and upset and vow to do more and to do better, but as the song says, the “beat goes on.” Incident after incident, beating after beating. It’s a maddening cycle and one that often leaves us wondering if it can ever be stopped.
But what are we really to do?
After the Holocaust, we said NEVER AGAIN and, just 27 years later, 11 Israelis were murdered on the world’s biggest stage in Germany, home of the greatest Jew hatred ever.
These incidents continue to occur, and there is nothing to suggest an end is forthcoming. We can spend millions of dollars securing our Jewish institutions, paying for armed security guards to stand watch while we are inside praying and learning, but there are still vulnerable and innocent people being attacked by far too many.
I just returned from Israel where I was exactly four years ago when I first heard the words, “active shooter Tree of Life” in my ongoing group text from my friends I grew up with back in Squirrel Hill.
As I walked the streets of Tel Aviv, Netivot, Jerusalem, Sderot and the other places I visited, I was inspired by the Israelis and resolved to make their lives better. They work hard each day to determine the best path forward on matters around security, food supply, irrigation and water resources, along with many other areas.
They give me hope, and they should give all Jews hope. One of my visits was to an air force base as a guest to watch the ceremony for a new base commander. As they played “Hatikvah,” I began to think of Tree of Life and the Squirrel Hill community and the resolve of the people from there. The common themes from both are hope and faith.
“Hatikvah” means “the hope.” The first two lines read “As long as within our hearts, the Jewish soul sings.” This is what we all need to rely upon as we push forward as Jews.
Antisemitism is as old as time, but we need to focus on the positives. Shine the light on the great achievements of the Jewish people — actors, athletes, scholars, creators of all sorts.
Help to change the narrative and get the paradigm to shift in our direction. The men I take to Israel every year return with a glow in their eyes as they see the incredible fortitude and gusto with which Israelis live. They have hope and are an inspiration because of this hope.
“Hatikvah” should be the rallying cry for each of us as we think of those 11 murdered in Squirrel Hill on that awful day in late October. “The Star-Spangled Banner” ends with the land of the free and home of the brave … unfortunately, Jews have had to be brave too often in the past, even while living free.
Let’s use “the hope” — let us all continue to have hope. We are less than 16 million people worldwide — hope is a tiny piece of what we all need, but it is a crucial piece. Let us not forget the names of those 11 innocent lives, and may their memories continue to be a blessing.
Steve Rosenberg is a former Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia executive and the chair of The Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.