Wednesday, January 22, 2020

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The article “Teaneck Mourns Pittsburgh With Candlelight Vigil” (JLNJ, November 8, 2018), echoes the widespread feeling that the horrific synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh “has evoked a sense of unity, not only among Jews, but among people of all backgrounds.” While this sentiment is very comforting, unfortunately it is not true. The country and the Jewish community show the same divisiveness after Pittsburgh as before. In fact, the Pittsburgh experience can serve as a microcosm of the situation as a whole.

In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, President Trump went to Pittsburgh to pay tribute to the victims of the shooting. While there, both the governor of Pennsylvania and mayor of Pittsburgh refused to meet him, the president of the country who was elected in accordance with the Constitution they both swore allegiance to in their oaths of office. Meanwhile, outside, a mob of shouting protestors disturbed the proceedings, turning a solemn memorial service it into a raucous political rally. Even some of the grieving families refused to meet him. This is hardly evidence of either American or Jewish unity.

Meanwhile on the wider national scale, the bitter election campaigns that just concluded show that America is just as divided now as it was before, when we witnessed the rancor and raucous incivility of the Kavanaugh hearings. The Jewish community itself was also badly divided before Pittsburgh. There were the radical far-left J Street on one end of the spectrum; the more mainstream organizations like ADL, HIAS and Reform and Conservative groups somewhere closer to the middle, but still decidedly left-leaning; and the Orthodox community further to the right. While most of these expressed anguish at the Pittsburgh event, there is little evidence that any of them will be changing their policies. Even worse, according to published reports, the Jewish Federations of North America, which is as mainstream as any Jewish organization should be, will be holding their upcoming general assembly conference in Tel Aviv, rather than Jerusalem where it has always held them. This presumably to show their displeasure for the otherwise historic U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem.

Sadly these show that the tragedy of Pittsburgh is rapidly fading from American and Jewish consciousness, and the divisiveness of partisan politics is again business as usual. Your editorial in the same JLNJ issue “Time to Come Together as One Nation” is certainly appropriate.

Max Wisotsky
Highland Park