Two days ago, on 27th October 2018, America sees another violent massacre at the hands of an American terrorist. This time the victims were 11 Jewish Americans attending a Saturday morning service at Or L'Simcha Conservative Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh. The attack occurred on the holiest day for Jews, the Shabbat, the day of rest, as they gather to give thanks to God at worship. This was the worst antisemitic attack ever occurred in America.
The sole suspect is a middle aged right-wing extremist whose goal, in his words, was to kill the Jews. This unfortunate event not only confirms a terrifying resurgence of antisemitism across the wider world, often ignored or derided, a resurgence that we would not want to see 70 years after the Holocaust, but also, an increase of antisemitism in a nation that has always been a safe haven for Jews, even at times where nowhere else was: the United States of America.
The history of Jews in the United States goes back to the 17th century, the first Jew born on American soil was a Sephardi man, Joachim Gans, in 1584, Elias Legarde, another Sephardic Jew, arrived in James City in Virginia in 1621, large Jewish communities flourished in New England and the Carolinas, the Touro Synagogue in Newport, built in 1759, is the oldest in the country, the Gomez Mill House in Marlboro, NY, dating to the 1710s, is the earliest surviving Jewish home in America. The history of Jews in the United States dates back to the very time during which the foundations of the nation were being laid.
By the time of the revolution, around 2,000 Sephardic Jews lived in America, they contributed to the war effort in large numbers, the Bill of Rights made sure that antisemitism would never become as prevalent as in Europe. George Washington wrote to the Newport community:
May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in the land continue to merit and enjoy the goodwill of the other inhabitants. While everyone shall sit safely under his own vine and fig-tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.
During the 19th century, a substantial number of German Jews became among the first settlers of the new Old Wild West. Later in the century, with the intensification of the Eastern European Pogroms a massive immigration of Ashkenazi Jews from Poland, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Rumania began, a massive "aliyha" that would last until the early stages of the Nazi regime in the 1930s.
During the Civil War, about 3,000 Jews fought for the Confederates and around 7,000 fought for the Union, they were American young men.
The massive wave of Jewish refugees to the East Coast of the United States, strengthened even more their presence in the United States, the influence on culture, art, science, even cuisine, today America is the 2nd largest Jewish country in the world, New York City being the largest Jewish city in the world.
The history of America is also Jewish, and Jews have enriched the history of the United States, as scientists, philanthropists, writers, artists, film-directors, politicians, activists, shaping every aspect of American culture, Jews fought in the two world wars valiantly and Jews have been and are American, and most Americans' friends, neighbors, coworkers, schoolmates, teachers, doctors.
To be Jewish is to be American, to be antisemitic is to be anti-American.
Shooting people during their worship gatherings, at Shabbat, on the holiest day of the week is a terrible act of terror, it is not the first time it happens in a house of worship, and we must pray and work for a more concrete solution to such hatred. How can we make our Jewish brothers and sisters feel safe after the worst antisemitic attack ever occurred in America? We will keep praying for the eleven victims of the Pittsburgh attack, that their memory may be a blessing, that America may continue to be safe haven for Jews and for all.
This Christian stands with you.
This Christian stands with you.
Glorified and sanctified be God’s great name throughout the world
which He has created according to His will.
May He establish His kingdom in your lifetime and during your days,
and within the life of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon;
and say, Amen.
May His great name be blessed forever and to all eternity.
Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honored,
adored and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He,
beyond all the blessings and hymns, praises and consolations that
are ever spoken in the world; and say, Amen.
May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us
and for all Israel; and say, Amen.
He who creates peace in His celestial heights,
may He create peace for us and for all Israel;
and say, Amen.