You don’t have to be Jewish to have deep feelings about last week’s terror attack in Pittsburgh. And there is no shortage of emotions and deeper meanings to take away from this horror. Here are a few of my own early thoughts.
Of course for many of us, the Pittsburgh attack is close to home. I’ve been in the Tree of Life for a wedding long ago, and Jews are all connected. And as a security volunteer in another synagogue hundreds of miles away, I was actively dealing with safeguarding and with liaison to our local police. But somehow it’s more, and I’m choosing here to leave out the very compelling political and security ramifications because I think there’s something innate that also merits exploration.
Perhaps we (somewhat like Israelis) have tried to put the shame of victimhood behind us. We watch the massacres and violence around the United States and we sympathize, empathize, pledge solidarity, and step up to help. But now we Jews are in the spotlight, we are the ones receiving sympathy and assistance. Cable news is focused on US. Not Israel, not a multi-ethnic public school, not a military base.
We have the spotlight right now, and we may not all agree on how to use it. But it feels very strange to be noticed for what was done to us, and not for what we have done -- whether good deeds or bad. Almost unavoidably, we are objectified. Our rabbis are elevated to the national stage, “Shabbat” is a term mentioned by CNN, and the Jewish experience and current trauma have been universalized to a national and international audience.
Maybe this just takes some getting used to. And maybe the pain and sorrow are still too overwhelming.