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Marilyn Robb

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Proud to Be a Pittsburgh Jew

I grew up six blocks away from the Tree of Life Synagogue in the neighborhood next to Squirrel Hill in Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania, USA). Each day I discover more connections to people who were killed or survived the shooting. [See previous article.]

Something has shifted in my mind since the shooting. I feel fiercely determined to be visible as a Jew; to do my liberation work in the world as a proud, visible Jew; to not believe any anti-Jewish distress recordings as a Jewish female; to not let them have my mind ever again. I have way more [a lot more] access to rage and a sharp clarity about what I want to live for.

Here is what I posted on Facebook:

I am proud to be a Pittsburgh Jew. I am proud of Or L’Simcha [the congregation of the Tree of Life Synagogue] for standing with refugees and immigrants. My heart is filled with grief and rage and pride in who we are.

May each person killed at Tree of Life rest in peace, and may their memory be a blessing. תנוח על משכבך בשלום

Let’s take our grief and rage and reach for each other—let it out and fight for the world we want together.

I am furious at right-wing forces that use us and our legacy of genocide and fear to scare us into reinforcing other people’s oppression.

How dare you. You are not with us. We know what side we’re on, and when we forget, let’s remind each other who we are.

Let’s stand against white supremacy, white nationalism, classism, and anti-Semitism and refuse to be pitted against other communities. May we honor their memory [the memory of those killed] with our prayers, our tears, and our fight.

I’ve been thinking about how Pittsburgh is one of the U.S. cities in which most Jews live inside the city. The shooter lived in the suburbs, but he picked a synagogue in the city, in the heart of the Jewish community, to attack. This feels significant. For Jews there’s a particular sense of safety and belonging in Squirrel Hill that matters. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that that’s where he attacked.

My seventeen-year-old niece is running for her neighborhood council in Denver (Colorado, USA) on a platform calling for affordable housing and ending racism. She’s running against the developers’ candidate. I’ve been able to discharge hard about how my older brother is going door to door with her. He is very much a Jewish guy from Squirrel Hill, and I think that’s partly why he knows something about backing [supporting] his Jewish daughter and stepping outside of his own distress to do it. My two older sisters, who taught me RC and leftist politics, have known something important about being unassimilated, doing what is right, and sticking by me that also has much to do with growing up in that proud Jewish community.

I have been trying to think about how to support Jewish young people in this period. How do we tell them about early recorded terror? How do we give them a sense of safety while also being real [honest] about rising anti-Jewish oppression during this period? How do we stay close and make space for their feelings about this massacre and the present-time reality of anti-Jewish oppression? I’m not sure, but I’m trying to put my mind there and reach for young Jews I’m close to.

I am grateful to have our Community and our clarity about anti-Jewish oppression and how it functions, and I’m determined to put our thinking out more boldly.

Claire Galpern

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Reprinted from the RC e-mail
discussion list for leaders of Jews

Last modified: 2019-05-02 14:41:35+00