We are coming up on the Oct. 27 one-year anniversary of the most deadly antisemitic shootings on American soil, the massacre at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.
This terrific Atlantic piece give us a thorough, if complicated, picture of how that city's Jewish community is doing now and how religious violence has rewritten life in complex ways for Pittsburgh and, by extension, for American Jews as well as others everywhere.
In fact, this is the kind of careful, nuanced religion reporting that is often missing today in American journalism, despite good efforts from organizations such as Religion News Service.
But just as any terrorist act -- whether 9/11 or the 2014 murders at Jewish facilities in the Kansas City area -- recalibrates life for those who survive, so the Pittsburgh murders not only caused divisions in thought about how to proceed but simply revealed divisions that already existed among the city's Jews.
As reporter Emma Green writes in the Atlantic piece, "Three different views, roughly, have emerged. Some people have called for the return of American civility, preaching that tolerance and dialogue can beat back the shooter’s unfathomable bigotry. Others believe this shooting was part of the Jew hatred that reemerges in every generation, convinced that it might have taken place no matter the state of American politics.
Terrorism, even attempted attacks that don't succeed in the goals the terrorists set, changes lives. It has disrupted life for countless people around the globe, including the Jewish community of Pittsburgh, the Corporon and LaManno families of Kansas City and even my own family as we've struggled to comprehend the murder of my nephew, a passenger on the first plane to strike the World Trade Center on 9/11.
In Pittsburgh, as Green writes, "The shooting has revived old debates about how Jews should relate to power: Accommodate reigning leaders or push against them? Prioritize protection of the community or try to change the world for others? The Jews of Pittsburgh feel called to do something constructive with their tragedy, to make some sort of meaning out of what happened to them. At stake is a specifically American vision of Judaism that does not have to be tied to victimhood and violence, and that sees a possibility for justice in the world."
The Atlantic piece is a long read, but well worth it. And added to the sorrow of what happened there is that similarly long stories could be written about the aftermath of an almost limitless list of acts of terror in the last several decades. Religion run amok or religious hatred unleashed has profound and lasting consequences.
It's why we can't be satisfied simply to react humanely to terrorism's victims after it occurs but must work to destroy whatever it is that leads people into the kind of monochromatic thinking that results in false certitude and in destructive actions based on that certainty.
(P.S.: Here is a great column by a rabbi who is reacting to what he calls "the worst, most perplexing and most painful year in American Jewish history.")
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WHAT THAT COURTROOM HUG WAS ABOUT
The world still is trying to figure out what to make of the fact that the brother of the man shot by an off-duty police officer in what she thought was her own apartment forgave her at her sentencing hearing the other day and hugged her. “I want the best for you,” Brandt Jean told Amber Guyger. “That’s exactly what Botham (his brother) would want you to do, and the best would be to give your life to Christ. I love you as a person. I don’t wish anything bad on you. I don’t know if this is possible, but can I give her a hug?" The judge gave him permission, and they hugged. I view what happened as a great example of a man living out his faith, a faith that is demanding, that requires followers to do things that seem counter-cultural and that reveal a capacity for love that is so large it must have a divine origin. None of that has anything to do with the accuracy of the conviction, with whether the sentence was fair or with whether Guyger is truly sorry. Rather, it has to do with one follower of Jesus trying to act like Jesus. And because almost no human motive is pure, perhaps he also did it to free himself of the anger he has felt about his brother's death.