Three Years After Tree of Life, Where Are We?


By Steve Rosenberg

Three years after the Tree of Life shooting, there is still more work to do.

Three years ago, I was in Israel when I learned of the news of the horrific shooting in my hometown of Pittsburgh and specifically my neighborhood of Squirrel Hill. Just one week ago, I spent a few days back in Squirrel Hill and walked around the Tree of Life, reflecting on the continued fight against antisemitism from every corner of the spectrum.

Our collective spirits and our hearts have been hurting. The fight against Jew-hatred, antisemitism and anti-Zionism — disguised as Jew-hatred — is rampant throughout our world. Every day, we read about another story where the only type of acceptable hatred is Jew-hatred. Whether this vitriol comes from the far left or the far right, or if it comes from celebrities or regular everyday people, it is everywhere.

All of these incidents have one thing in common. They are all happening in the United States of America, arguably the greatest success story of the Jewish diaspora.

College students are finishing their second month back on campus, in some cases after a year of virtual learning, and they have been met with the anti-Israel demonstrators who could not wait to return. Vandalism of Jewish institutions and physical threats have continued against observant Jews all over the world.

We cannot continue to ignore this ever-widening ocean of cultural sewage. Oftentimes it appears that American Jews don’t see antisemitism in America because they don’t want to, not because it isn’t real. They choose not to see it because it makes them uncomfortable, as assimilation seems a better option. Or, it is only called out if it comes from the other side — the political side they choose not to affiliate with.

However, one thing that always gives me hope is the community of Squirrel Hill and the resiliency this vibrant group of people continues to show each and every day. Three years after the murder of 11 of their most beloved, these folks demonstrate the strength that lies within.

Too often though, it is tragedy that has brought us together and tested our resolve. We have all mourned together after too many innocent members in our collective communities have been targeted by hate and bigotry. Our past and present are intertwined, and now as we see ourselves returning to normalcy at work, school and in our social lives, our bonds have been tested. Leadership that inspires tolerance and respect, education and understanding, is more important than ever before.

The hometown of Fred Rogers deserves better as does the rest of the world.

We can no longer sit back and accept Jew-hatred in any form. We must stand up against those suggesting Israel is an apartheid nation or that Jews are subhuman. We are only 15 million strong around the world — we are far from the aggressor or the oppressor.

Some might argue that the Jewish people are the greatest overachievers in the history of the planet and we must stand tall and stand proud, but, most importantly, we must learn to stand together to fight Jew-hatred.

Steve Rosenberg is the chief operating officer of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.


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