The Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting, Hanukkah, and Jewish Unity
Below is an excerpt of a speech written for a memorial service held in Kokomo, Indiana for the victims of the attack on the Tree Of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.
We must not be silent about the heartrending murder and martyrdom of the Jews at the Tree Of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. Eleven Jewish lives were tragically cut short by a gunman motivated by hate for the Jewish people. That hate must not go unanswered.
You should be praised that you have made the decision to take time out from your hectic lives to mark the occasion of this attack on our fellow Jews with a memorial observance. We are remembering the fallen now at the end of their shloshim. The shloshim is the traditional Jewish 30-day mourning period. By being here now, you are answering hate. You are not being silent. We should remember that Matityahu and his sons chose not to be silent. The Maccabees stood up to hate, and they achieved the great things that we remember and celebrate to this day.
Jews from throughout the United States and abroad should draw strength from what is happening in Kokomo today. Jews from diverse backgrounds joining together in unity and love is a far too rare thing in the American Jewish community right now. And showing love of fellow Jews is one way to combat the haters. But just as we love our fellow Jews, we must hate evil and we must hate those who would seek to do harm to the Jewish people and the nation of Israel. We must not be silent at this time.
After the recent news about the boycott of Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria by Airbnb, one of the best suggested responses is to boycott the boycotters. Yes, we must boycott the boycotters. But we also must hate evil. We must hate the Pittsburgh murderer.
From the Tanach, in Kohelet, we learn that there is “A time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.” Our 11 brothers and sisters in Pittsburgh were slaughtered 46 years after our 11 brothers and sisters were murdered in the Olympic Village in Munich in September 1972 by hate-filled Palestinian Arab terrorists — 46 years and the Atlantic Ocean separated these two groups of martyrs, and nothing else. They were all killed because they were Jews. They were 22 souls who joined the six million of the Holocaust and so many more.
The late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. put it so well when he said, “When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking antisemitism.” Recently it has come to light that the Pittsburgh murderer was also a hater of the State of Israel. We should not be surprised. A wise rabbi once remarked that by its very nature, any hatred of the State of Israel is also hatred of the Jewish people and Judaism.
We must continue to speak out against the haters of Israel and the haters of the Jewish people. The great Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky is the spiritual father of the Herut movement. Jabotinsky proclaimed in “Shir Betar,” his epic Zionist anthem penned in 1932: “For silence is filth.” We must never be silent.
Yours is a congregation that places a high priority on life-long Jewish learning and studying classic Jewish texts, as well as speaking out. You are following in the steps of the Maccabees, the Zionist rebels of their time who fought the dark forces of the Greek empire at the time of the Hanukkah miracle. A Hasidic proverb states: “A little light chases away a lot of darkness.” May the light of your Zionism, your unity, our Hanukkah menorahs, and your Torah do just that.
Wishing you the brightest of Hanukkahs.
Moshe Phillips is national director of Herut North America’s US section. Herut is an international movement for Zionist pride and education.