Our parents were married here. Our friends became bar and bat mitzvah here. On Saturday, 11 of our neighbors were killed here.

On Oct. 27, an antisemitic gunman gunned down 11 innocent people in the Tree of Life Synagogue in our hometown of Pittsburgh.

Seventy years after the genocide of over 6 million of our people, we watched as our safe haven was desecrated by the same hatred from which our families had fled. These 11 people were members of our own community. They walked the streets we grew up walking: Murray Avenue, Forbes Avenue and Fifth Avenue.

There they walk no more.

Many have failed to call the Pittsburgh massacre by its true name. This attack was more than an act of gun violence: It was a deliberate act of terror meant to intimidate and annihilate Jewish people in their own place of worship. Suggesting otherwise constitutes ignorance and erasure.

The Tree of Life shooting must be acknowledged as the antisemitic hate crime it was. This recognition is the first step in grappling with the perpetuation of antisemitism, which can be — and must be — stopped through proper education.

Anti­semitism has a history over 2,000 years long. It is the same evil that caused the expulsion of Jews from Jerusalem in 586 BCE, from England in 1290 CE and from Spain in 1492.

Antisemitism killed our ancestors in Baghdad in 1941 and in Germany from 1933 to 1945. Most recently, antisemitism struck down our neighbors in our country, the United States of America.

Saturday’s massacre was the largest attack on Jews on U.S. soil since the first Jewish immigrants arrived from Brazil in 1654. To say Jewish life in the United States has only been comfortable since then would be a lie. The Immigration Act of 1924, for example, curtailed Jewish immigration, stranding millions in persecution.

Hatred has also penetrated our campus. As evidenced by the swastikas on our campus last year, virulent antisemitic rhetoric and behavior are foreign neither to Georgetown nor to the rest of the United States.

Anti­semitism is not just an “othering” of Judaism and Jewishness, but also an active erasure of Jewish peoplehood, Jewish history and Jewish values. It is an evil ideology that seeks to destroy the Jewish people, welcoming them only when they check their Judaism at the door.

Campus antisemitism is not one of “blood and soil,” the German nationalistic slogan. It is a cultural antisemitism, an American antisemitism born out of ignorance, assimilation and lack of questioning. For example, the conflation of Judaism with Zionism has often led to the exclusion of Jewish students from progressive spaces on campus. Students should not have to lie or mask parts of their identity to be welcomed into a space.

Hatred can only be defeated when we all understand its historic origins and daily manifestations in our lives. Solidarity from non-Jewish individuals, including other minorities, has undeniably strengthened and cultivated our community’s healing. We must understand the specific persecution of the Jewish people in discussing the Tree of Life shooting.

Even after subdued, perpetrator Robert Bowers continued shouting, “Kill all Jews.” Only in recognizing the role of antisemitism in white supremacist movements and its presence in our society’s institutions can we effectively heal and move forward. Allies of the Jewish community must learn more about Judaism and Jewish life to stand with us against antisemitism.

Through education on Judaism as a religion and culture, students are enabled to actively recognize and call out all antisemitism. We must take the teachings of the Torah — commonly  referred to as the Tree of Life — to heart and grow new roots while nourishing the old ones. The future is forged through relationships, but those relationships cannot be built when individuals refuse to acknowledge the nuances of Jewish identity while others strive to erase us not only from the conversation but from the world.

We must start with our campus community, recognizing that change takes both time and concerted effort. Only education and the active confrontation of hate in all forms can create a brighter future. But we cannot look forward without looking back.

Remember their names: Daniel Stein, Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Jerry Rabinowitz, Cecil Rosenthal, David Rosenthal, Bernice Simon, Sylvan Simon, Melvin Wax and Irving Younger. Zichronam l’vracha — may their memories be a blessing.

Paige Harouse is a senior in the College. Nathan Wecht is a sophomore in the College.

One Comment

  1. Steven Cohen says:

    Good points Nathan. Education lies at the heart of most solutions.

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