What a week. As if a mail bomber sending explosive devices to a former president and other high-profile public figures wasn’t enough, we woke Saturday morning to news that another disturbed lone wolf had entered a synagogue in Pittsburgh during worship services on the Jewish Sabbath and murdered 11 people in cold blood, wounding many others.
Hate, fear and violence in the country are on the rise.
Saturday’s heinous and hate-filled assault was a direct attack on Judaism and America’s Jews. It represents the single, most violent incident against Jewish Americans in the history of the United States.
And it has had a chilling effect on many of us in the Jewish community, whose sense of security has been punctured by yet another—and far more horrific—act of anti-Semitism.
As a rabbi living and leading a congregation in Napa, I am sad and angry. I mourn the terrible loss of life of my Jewish brothers and sisters in Pittsburgh. But I am furious at the killer, as well as at all those who have played a role in creating a climate of hate and fear in our nation.
I have never seen anything like this before in my lifetime. The deep divisions and heated tribalism in our country are making America almost unrecognizable to me. And the responsibility goes all the way to the top.
We have a president who seems to thrive on sowing discord and division in order to advance his political agenda. A president who speaks (and tweets) darkly about his opponents, about immigrants, and about the press. A president who stirs up hatred and fear of the other and who, when troubled individuals act out in lethal ways on these ideas and emotions, refuses to take responsibility for the violence-charged atmosphere he has engendered.
As a Jew and a community leader, I will not allow terrorists to make us fear practicing our faith. We will continue to worship and celebrate our religious traditions with pride and passion. While it is very sad that we now need the presence of law enforcement to help our community feel safer when we pray and educate our children, we are grateful for the support from local police, Napa’s civic and political leaders, and all our friends and neighbors.
I stand in support of the Jewish community of Pittsburgh, a community that has been traumatized and will suffer the consequences of yesterday’s act of terror for years to come. This event—and others like it that are on the rise—remind us that our fates as Americans are intertwined.
We must all join together to reclaim our country and her values. We must resolve to fight anti-Semitism and hatred whenever and wherever they surface.
May we, and our children and grandchildren, live to see the day when the darkness of our times is no more.
Niles Goldstein is rabbi at Napa’s Congregation Beth Shalom.