The senseless loss of 11 lives in the mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh reminds us of the destructive impact hate crimes have on victims and communities. Hate crimes target core aspects of our identity as human beings and send a message to members of the victims’ group that they are not welcome. This extreme expression of prejudice decreases feelings of safety and security in the community.
Yesterday I received the following letter from one of our students, Carla Naylor.
In Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on Saturday, October 27th at 9:54 in the morning 11 people were murdered at the Tree of Life synagogue. A hate-filled man shouted anti-Semitic slurs and slogans as he shot those innocent people. He stormed into the congregation with only one objective, to kill Jewish people. Squirrel Hill has a vibrant Jewish community that has been growing since the 1920s; by all accounts this neighborhood is full of love which makes this shooting that much harder to process. The weight of this tragedy was carried around the world as Shabbat came to a close that evening and observant families turned on their phones or TVs to get updates on the situation hours after it had occurred. We grieved together that night. We all felt something; pain, confusion, fear, and some pushed all the feelings away because the magnitude of this crime was too big to understand. I didn’t want to accept what happened when I received a text message from my mom that morning telling me of the tragedy. A part of me shut off, and to this day it’s been hard to turn it back on. My family was hurt. In Jewish philosophy, we believe that we are all connected; when one of us is in pain then we all are. This horrific act was an anti-Semitic hate crime against all people of Jewish faith. This affects all Jewish people; Reform to Orthodox, Jews of color, Ashkenazi or Sephardic or Mizrahi, Zionist, faithful, or those wrestling with G-d. It doesn’t matter; because at that moment it felt like every Jewish person was a potential target. Many young Jewish people thought something like this couldn’t happen here because we believed we were safe. Larger Jewish schools and sanctuaries are guarded for precaution, but growing up we never understood the gravity of why security guards are needed, now we know. Anti-Semitism has morphed into a quiet monster to survive for millennia, and the Jewish people are not strangers with this hate. Now more than ever we need to investigate and call out this antagonism towards Jewish values, principles, and beliefs. The next Jewish holiday is Hanukkah, and we will reflect on yet another time when our faith was attacked and we prevailed. For generations, we have talked about how we can become stronger as a community and not let hate take us down. I believe this tragic event can become a time for understanding, reflection, and community building, just like many of our celebrations.
I agree wholeheartedly with Carla that we are all connected and that tragic events such as the hate crime at Tree of Life, and yet another mass shooting that took place last night in Thousand Oaks, California, can become a time for community building.
Next week, I invite you to join students, faculty, and staff as College of Marin (COM) participates in United Against Hate Week, November 11 through 18. While we live in one of the nation’s most progressive and innovative areas, our region is not immune to hate. Associated Students of College of Marin (ASCOM) is partnering with Not In Our Town, a leading anti-hate organization, to stand up against hate by hosting activities on campus.
ASCOM has organized a walkout Wednesday, November 14, at 12:30 p.m. starting on the lawn in front of the Student Services Center. At 7 p.m. they will host a film screening of Walking in Oak Creek and student panel discussion in Academic Center, room 255.
COM is united against hate and will continue to welcome and support all members of our diverse community. Join as we stand up against hate, celebrate our differences, and learn from each other.