We are saddened beyond words and grieve for the lives lost by the attack on the Etz Chaim (Tree of Life) Synagogue in Pittsburgh last Saturday. We are not surprised, however. You only need to glance at the vast literature on genocide and political violence to understand that in an environment of institutionally backed hate speech, the accumulation of hate crimes and smaller acts of bigotry, a major attack usually follows.
Earlier this year the Anti-Defamation League reported nearly 2,000 anti-Semitic incidents occurred , an increase of almost 60% from the year before and the highest rates in the United States in decades. In 2017, all 50 states reported anti-Semitic hate crimes, the first time since 2010. From Holocaust deniers running for Congress to the dramatic increase in white supremacist language on American campuses, anti-Semitism is becoming normalized. As the ADL Director Johnathan Greenblatt said on last Sunday’s ‘This Week’: “We are seeing an environment in which antisemitism has moved from the margins to the mainstream as political candidates and people in public life literally repeat the rhetoric of white supremacists.” Tragically, this hatred manifested itself again on Saturday in Pittsburgh, resulting in the deadliest act of violence committed against Jews in American history.