By Jess Green, Class of 2019
With all the violence reported recently, it is easy for it to blend together. Conversations about gun rights have begun, but people aren’t talking as much about hate groups in the U.S. rising every year since 2014 and the number of hate crimes along with them. Jews are often characterized as controlling the U.S. media, while also not being American. It is forgotten that Jews take up less than one percent of the world’s population. In fact, we take up less than a quarter of a percent of the world’s population. People love to hate us so much that we joke our holidays are themed, “they tried to kill us, we survived, let’s celebrate”—an apparent theme long before the Holocaust.
As he shouted “all Jews must die,” I am certain that Robert Bowers did not know how far back the statement went. Despite being well aware of this theme myself, when I read about the Pittsburgh massacre, I was still surprised. My first thought was of my parents, who live in Denver. They started attending synagogue more frequently recently. I thought about how our lives would change if this had happened in Denver. Then, I scanned my mind to identify all the Jews I knew that lived in Pittsburgh. It was not until the next day that I remembered a college friend of mine—someone who would have been in synagogue—was getting his PhD there. When I found out he was safe, I felt grateful that he was probably praying at a more religious synagogue. I saw people mark themselves safe on Facebook who I didn’t know lived in Pittsburgh and wondered how it would have felt if someone I was no longer in touch with had not ended up being safe. Everyone I knew was okay, but this was still an assault on my identity; that is the mark of a hate crime.
Over the next few days, I saw many things that upset me further. One woman, after surviving the Holocaust and freely practicing her faith for the majority of her life, was murdered while doing so. I found out that the killer hated Jews partially because some of them worked to bring refugees into the U.S. Then I saw that Mike Pence, in an extremely offensive act, brought a Messianic Jew (if you are unfamiliar, look it up) to honor the victims.
I was relieved to see that Muslim groups raised a considerable amount of money to help the victims of the shooting and hoped that were the situation reversed, we would do the same. I learned that while the shooter screamed anti-Semitic remarks, his Jewish doctor kept working and eventually stated that he helped people. This makes me proud to be Jewish.
Here at Booth, we love to celebrate our diversity, but I hope that you will take the time to understand the pain, baggage, and struggles that come along with your peers’ culture, not just the fun. It will make our community stronger.