Statement from SURJ Bay Area on the shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
As Jewish and non-Jewish members of SURJ Bay Area, we grieve the murders of Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Jerry Rabinowitz, brothers Cecil Rosenthal and David Rosenthal, husband and wife Sylvan Simon and Bernice Simon, Daniel Stein, Melvin Wax and Irving Younger at the Tree of Life Synagogue on Saturday during Shabbat morning services. We hold these individuals, their loved ones, Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood, and the broader Jewish community in our hearts.
As we hold one another in our grief, let us be renewed in our work toward collective liberation.
The anti-Jewish massacre happened just 3 days after the murder of Black grandparents Maurice Stallard and Vickie Jones in Kentucky by a white supremacist whose intended destination was a black church. It happened in a week when numerous groups faced ongoing threats from the federal government, from the caravan of asylum-seekers approaching our border to the trans, non-binary and intersex people deserving safety and recognition, to the Puerto Rican survivors waiting over a year for aid and reconstruction. We see these not as singular acts of violence but as part of the United States’ heinous legacy of white supremacist violence and militarization, emboldened by the violent rhetoric of the US President and right-wing leaders, and deeply intertwined with the fascism, colonialism, and white supremacy that continues to spread across the globe.
For white people unfamiliar with the history of anti-Jewish violence and its significance within the broader white supremacist worldview, more consciousness is needed. We will educate ourselves about the inextricable connection between anti-Jewish hate and white nationalism, as we reckon with the truths of how they are impacting our communities and our organizing work together. Historically and today, Jews of Color and white Jews have dedicated themselves to advancing liberation struggles. White nationalists blame Jews for perceived losses of status and white privilege, spreading the myth that Black, brown, immigrant, poor, and queer people could not have won their human rights without a puppeteer behind the scenes running our governments and financial systems. The murderer targeted the congregation at the Tree of Life for their work helping immigrants with Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), entangling his anti-Jewish hate with anti-refugee vitriol. We can learn more about anti-semitism as a core piece of white Christian nationalism in Eric Ward’s piece: “Skin in the Game: How Antisemitism Animates White Nationalism.”, as well as through this powerful piece from Jews for Racial and Economic Justice.
We stand against anti-Jewish oppression in the context of our commitment to fight militarized violence and the targeting of Black people, indigenous people, and people of color by police. We know that more armed police in our communities do not make anyone safer and, for many, is life-threatening. The police who regularly terrorize and kill people of color manage to handle white perpetrators of violence differently: last week the police were able to arrest both murderers alive and unharmed. True freedom — collective freedom — requires that we fight for everyone’s right to thrive and self-define without fear of violence and persecution.
SURJ Bay Area stands with all those targeted because of their identities and beliefs. We will continue to work on behalf of and alongside our Jewish partners as we fight for social justice. We are committed to caring for our communities and resisting fascism and white nationalism in every form.