Sunday, October 28, 2018
The Tennessee Holocaust Commission was devastated to learn about the senseless loss of life that occurred yesterday at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We extend our condolences first of all to the victims and their families. Our hearts go out to all who have been affected by this tragedy, especially our friends and colleagues in the Pittsburgh area. We learned that the gunman shouted “All these Jews need to die” before opening fire on the congregation and today we have learned the names of those lost in this horrifying act making this tragedy even more personal. We were deeply saddened that Rose Mallinger, a 97 year old Holocaust Survivor, was one of the victims of this hate crime. As Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf stated, “Anti-Semitism has absolutely no place in our country. Any attack on one community of faith is an attack against every community of faith.” Our colleagues at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Anti-Defamation League have both made statements regarding the attack. The ADL reports that anti-Semitic incidents and attacks have risen by 60% in the United States in the last year alone.
The Tennessee Holocaust Commission is committed to combating anti-Semitism through education. It is our belief that the best antidote for prejudice, hatred, and violence is education. This escalation in hate, both at home and abroad, requires swift and broad action. We must work together to educate about the dangers of anti- Semitism and prejudice. The Commission has a unique role to play in ensuring that students throughout the state of Tennessee learn about this crisis in history and are committed to continued work with our partners at the Tennessee Department of Education on the integration of these standards into the curriculum. We join our colleagues at Hadassah working to ensure that the Never Again Education Act bill becomes law.
This incident hits particularly close to home for our partners at the Whitwell Children’s Memorial. Several Pennsylvania synagogues have forged a longstanding bond and relationship with the Whitwell Children’s Holocaust Memorial. Last year a delegation from several Pennsylvania based synagogues and Temples held a Bat Mitzvah at the Memorial. The symbolism of the event was not lost on anyone in attendance. One participant reflected, “The rail car was an emotional and symbolic backdrop for the service. There was something about seeing the ark in the rail car that struck me. To have, at least in this instance, the symbol of it change to a symbol of hope was really powerful.” It is this symbol of hope and change that we must carry with us as we act to prevent these tragedies in the future. We simply cannot accept this violence as a normal part of American life.
This hate crime has shaken all in our community, and we need to come together to process and heal. A community-wide memorial service to honor the victims will be held at 6 p.m. on Monday evening October 29th at the Temple located at 5015 Harding Pike, Nashville, TN. All members of the Nashville community are invited to attend so that we can grieve and pray together. All Jewish communal institutions, work in regular communication with local, state and federal law enforcement to put heightened degrees of security into place in times like these. Local synagogues, Jewish congregations and Metro Nashville Police have heightened security in the wake of the shooting. Metro Police will be conducting extra patrols and checking in more frequently at Jewish buildings in Nashville. May we continue to go from strength to strength.