Remembering Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh | October 27, 2018
In response to the news of the shootings this spring at the mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, Rafael Shimunov, a fellow Queens Jew and activist wrote:
When you kill someone praying, you are killing them at the moment they closed their eyes, turned their back to the door, tuned out every sound and decided that this will be the moment they will trust the rest of humanity the most.
This Shabbat we marked the first anniversary of the murder of 11 Jews in the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in an act of white supremacist terror. It’s possible that in the moment the shooter stormed the sanctuary, they had their eyes closed, and were sinking into that sense of trust in humanity, opening their hearts in prayer. We remember them and honor them, along with all those whose lives have been taken by hate.
On Friday, I stood with Jews and allies, in an action coordinated by Jews for Racial and Economic Justice and If Not Now When, remembering Pittsburgh and protesting Fox News and the right wing media’s part in spreading hate.
Angeles Solis of Make the Road New York stood with us and reminded us that we cannot stop speaking the truth. The truth is that white supremacy and white nationalism, provoked by President Trump and amplified by the right-wing media are the source of the acts of ideologically motivated racist violence we have been experiencing in our own country and around the world.
Angeles warned us that the Trump administration and Fox News don’t want us to keep fighting for the rights of Muslims, Jews, immigrants, queer folks, trans folks, People of Color to live without fear.
“They don’t want us to say black lives matter. They don’t want us to talk about abolition and decarceration and a world without capitalism,” she said.
Even more powerfully for me, Angeles spoke about what it was like for her as a Latinx woman to watch the news after the mass shooting in the El Paso Walmart. She sat with her family, watching the names and photos of the victims scrolling on the TV, and she saw names and faces like her own, like her own aunts or uncles.
She said that on that day, she felt tired. But she also felt a deep sense of commitment.
She said to us:
I felt a deep commitment for every other person who wakes up with a target on their back under Trump. And standing here with all of you, unafraid to name those responsible, I look at everyone here — and you’re my family too.
One week after Pittsburgh, many of us stood in Diversity Plaza in Jackson Heights and celebrated Shabbat, surrounded by a circle of Queens neighbors who represented the diverse fabric of cultures and faiths in our borough. That night I felt that sense of trust in humanity that Raphael spoke of. This is where we find safety: in loving and protecting each other.
Yes, we are all family.