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Reflections on the Pittsburgh Shooting

by Talia Kliot

Stars of David outside the Tree of Life synagogue, honouring the 11 victims of the shooting - via AP News

All my teachers insist that words empower us. So why does my heart race while typing these words? Why do my fingers shake as I’m about to submit this article? When every night this week, I’ve been spitting out essays about other people’s stories, why am I at a loss for words when it’s time to tell my own?

In the aftermath of the Pittsburg shooting, I’m terrified. I have never been scared to reveal my Jewish identity. I have never been afraid to bring my new friends knishes and talk fondly about my Zadie. I have always believed that the world I live in had finally gotten it right and that I wouldn’t have to feel the same pain felt by my ancestors in every generation.

On October 27th, I too went to synagogue to celebrate a life milestone, a bat mitzvah. But while I beamed with pride, and sang familiar tunes that made me feel connected to my heritage, my people cried out in horror and hid in fear. It could have just as easily been me.

It haunts me to know that my Zadie survived the Holocaust to face the same hatred 70 years later. It hurts me that innocent people continue to suffer for just being themselves.

It breaks my heart that I had to hear the news from my 13-year-old brother, who received a text message from one of his friends from camp who lives in Pittsburgh. He informed my family that there had been a shooting 10 blocks from his friend’s house, but that he was luckily safe at home. While the Jewish community may be spread out all around the world, everyone has a connection to the tragedy that occurred, and it devastates me that my sweet little brother was the one who formed mine.

I wondered if the place where I had always felt protected, my synagogue, was still the haven I had always believed it to be. I worried that in light of these events, people would stop attending Jewish services and celebrations, in fear of the ignorance and intolerance that attacked our family in Pittsburgh. Looking back two weeks later, I see how it brought the community together, with higher attendance rates, words of comfort, messages of solidarity, and a desire to take action.

I was apprehensive to share my reflections because, in a sea of meaningful stories and Facebook posts, I felt like mine would hardly have an impact. I realize now that everyone has something different and important to add, and that together, we form a strong, powerful front against the cruelty we witnessed. I urge everyone - Jews and non-Jews alike - to speak out about this injustice, to ensure that “never again” aren’t just empty words.



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