Our Solidarity Will Defeat White Nationalism
Chicago Jews and allies come together on the first anniversary of the Tree of Life mass shooting to commemorate the tragedy and recommit to ending all forms of hate and oppression.
On October 27, 2018, a white nationalist gunman stormed into a Pittsburgh synagogue during Saturday morning prayers and murdered 11 Jews, in what was the deadliest antisemitic attack in our nation’s history.
In the year since, the threat of white nationalism has only gotten more dire. Similar attacks in Poway, El Paso, Dayton, and locations around the world have demonstrated the urgency in which we must confront this violent and reactionary movement, which puts not just Jewish lives but also Muslim, immigrant, Black and Latinx lives at risk.
The vigil at Chicago’s Buckingham Fountain, organized by the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, was put together to honor the lives lost in Pittsburgh, connect the fight against antisemitism to the fights against other forms of oppression, and recommit to building a world that is safe and prosperous for all people.
Speakers included clergy, activists and community leaders. Rabbi Lauren Henderson of Mishkan Chicago led the vigil with the collective singing of “Oseh Shalom,” which features the words: “May the one who creates peace on high bring peace to us and to all Israel. And we say: Amen.”
Later on, organizer Nasir Blackwell of the Inner-City Muslim Action Network spoke to the need for solidarity among Jews and Muslims in the fight against white nationalism. “We are many tribes and many faces,” Blackwell said. “The Quran says that Allah made us into nations and tribes so we can get to know one another. That has always informed IMAN’s work with JCUA and others. Our solidarity will defeat white nationalism.”
JCUA connects the struggle against antisemitism with the violence and hateful rhetoric against immigrants and other vulnerable communities in our city and nation. In a recent editorial published in the Chicago Sun-Times, JCUA executive director Judy Levey wrote:
Surely, we must not further isolate ourselves, put our heads down, and hope for the best. We must fix our gaze outward. We must forge relationships of solidarity with other communities who are experiencing the immediate and direct consequences of white nationalism and white supremacy.
This means working locally to address the most pressing justice issues in Chicago, and elevating the voices of Jews of Color. A society where immigrant communities are vilified and targeted will never be safe for Jews. A society where police kill unarmed black children will never be safe for Jews. A society with immense inequality, skewed distribution of resources and unchecked concentrations of power will never be safe for Jews.
Closing out the event, organizers read the names of the 11 Jews who lost their lives in Pittsburgh, followed by the recitation of the Mourner’s Kaddish. We remember:
Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Jerry Rabinowitz, Cecil Rosenthal, David Rosenthal, Bernice Simon, Sylvan Simon, Daniel Stein, Melvin Wax and Irving Younger.
Finally, JCUA community organizer Avra Shapiro led the group in a rousing and inspiring rendition of the song “We Will Outlive Them.”
The event was co-sponsored by Bend the Arc, HIAS Immigration & Citizenship (JCFS Chicago), Makom Shalom, Mishkan, KAM Isaiah Israel, Northwestern Hillel, Silverstein Base Hillel: Lincoln Park and Temple Jeremiah.
Other speakers included Rabbanit Leah Sarna, Jessica Schaffer of HIAS and Rabbi Megan GoldMarche of Silverstein Base Hillel: Lincoln Park.