The Pittsburgh Shooting: It’s Not Just Us

Stuck In The Middle



Image c. BBC News.

by Isabelle Mokotoff

This is the second in a series of columns by staff writer Isabelle Mokotoff. This week she reflects on feelings of isolation following the tragic shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Saturday morning. 9:45 am. A morning intended to celebrate a new life, now tainted by hatred. Armed with a semi-automatic assault-style rifle and three handguns, 46 year old Robert Bowers broke into the Tree of Life Synagogue, shouted, “All Jews must die”, and fired into the mass of congregants, leaving 11 dead.

This is not a Jewish issue. This is a humanitarian issue.

11:30 a.m. A mundane Saturday morning. I had just finished taking the ACT and after a three-hour hiatus from electronics, I was eager to reconnect with my friends. I took my phone off of airplane mode and immediately, it was flooded with notifications. For a moment, it felt like my world came crashing down.

“I’m 10 min away from the temple. My aunt and uncle are there and I haven’t heard anything yet, please keep them in your prayers.”

“It’s times like this where I’m at a loss for words. Growing up I was often at The Tree of Life for Hebrew school classes, bar/bat mitzvahs, and high holiday services. The unimaginable has happened today to a place so special to many and in so many of our hearts. My thoughts and prayers are with everyone and we’ll get through this. Vigil at 6:30 tonight at Forbes and Murray”

I was naive, I thought anti-semitism was a dying mentality. I was wrong. Squirrel Hill was a safe haven for Jews. It was unthinkable that an anti-semitic crime could happen there. And yet, it did. Trying to obtain a better grasp on the situation, I checked my Instagram feed. Post after post, people mourning the loss of loved ones and denouncing this tragedy. Confusion, loss, and anger swirled around in my brain. For fifteen minutes, I let my emotions paramount. And then, the dust settled. I realized a key common denominator between the people bringing this issue to light. They were all Jewish.

This is not a Jewish issue. This is a humanitarian issue.

I felt isolated. Only a few people came to our aid and stood with us, sharing words of compassion. Why, in our weakest moment, was the Jewish community left to fend for themselves?

pittsburgh pic 1 (2)

From posts on Social Media. Says writer Isabelle Mokotoff, ” I thought they illuminated the mentality of young Jewish teens.”

This is not a Jewish issue. This is a humanitarian issue.

I thought back to other recent calamities in American history. After the Pulse shooting, my LGBTQ+ friends spoke out. I didn’t. After the Charleston Church shooting, my friends of color spoke out. I didn’t. My lack of advocacy was not because I found those issues unimportant, but rather, because it was not “my place”  and not “my community”. After October 27th, it grew apparent that each community was fending for themselves, never bothering to be empathetic toward another. This divisiveness halts progress in its tracks; altruism is necessary in order for change to occur. By supporting your fellow-human, a person becomes becomes a part of a larger community, the human race. Isolated we become easily overpowered, together we overcome.

This is not a Jewish issue. This is a humanitarian issue.

In times of hardship, I turn to my roots to comfort me. I am proud of my Jewish heritage, proud of the messages taught by my faith. In the didactic prayer, Al Shlosha Devarim, it is preached that the world stands on three pillars: truth, justice and acts of loving kindness. After the events of the Pittsburgh tragedy, I truly believe that the best remedy for hatred is to employ these values into our lives.

Fox (2)

Image c. Fox News.


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