Post-Pitts­burgh pon­der­ings

The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - OBSERVATIONS - STE­WART WEISS The writer is di­rec­tor of the Jewish Outreach Cen­ter of Ra’anana. jocmtv@netvi­

There are cer­tain piv­otal events in our lives – happy as well as tragic – that leave an in­deli­ble mark on our souls. For me, that first mem­o­rable event was in Novem­ber 1963, when JFK was as­sas­si­nated in Dal­las (iron­i­cally, the city that later would be­come my home). I re­call my fa­ther, a life­long Repub­li­can, com­ing home from work in tears.

“But, Dad,” I said to him with the naïveté of a 10-year old, “you’re not a Demo­crat!” He froze me with an icy stare: “The pres­i­dent,” he said, “is the pres­i­dent of all Amer­i­cans!”

Just four years later, our teach­ers emp­tied out our school and brought all the stu­dents into the street. We blocked traf­fic – not al­ways a rec­om­mended op­tion in Chicago – and we sang and danced for hours. We didn’t re­al­ize then just what the Six Day War meant for the Jewish peo­ple, but we knew it had to be pretty im­por­tant.

Then there was 1969 – per­haps the grand­est of all years. This was the year of Wood­stock and com­ing of age, fea­tur­ing the best mu­sic ever writ­ten; the year that the first hu­man be­ing walked on the moon – two epochal events that are still re­ver­ber­at­ing through his­tory.

Later came the Yom Kip­pur War – one of the ca­su­al­ties be­ing a young man whose wed­ding I had at­tended just three months ear­lier. This was fol­lowed by Sa­dat’s his­toric visit to Jerusalem, and then our own aliyah.

And now, there is Pitts­burgh, a rel­a­tively small Jewish com­mu­nity that will for­ever be branded in our col­lec­tive psy­ches as the site of Amer­ica’s most hor­rific act of an­ti­semitism. In watch­ing the events un­fold over the last days, I feel a pro­found sad­ness that such a crime could ever oc­cur on US soil. But I also feel gen­uine pride in the way that Jews world­wide have ral­lied to the cause and ex­pressed such sin­cere sol­i­dar­ity with peo­ple – Jews and non-Jews – whom we may never have met, but who are at­tached to us at the heart.

The world at large has ral­lied to our cause, in ex­em­plary fash­ion. When did you last see a ma­jor for­eign news­pa­per with a head­line in He­brew?! Or a na­tional sports team wear­ing a Star of David on their jer­seys?

Sadly, there were those selfish in­di­vid­u­als who tried to hi­jack this somber but uni­fy­ing event by us­ing it to fur­ther their own par­ti­san cause, chief among them an in­ces­sant rant­ing against Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump. Never mind that the rabbi of the Tree of Life sy­n­a­gogue wel­comed Trump, and that the pres­i­dent and first lady gra­ciously de­liv­ered words of con­so­la­tion. For some peo­ple, all that mat­ters is their own selfish agenda, not the feel­ings and needs of the wounded.

Abra­ham our Pa­tri­arch teaches us the es­sen­tial in­gre­di­ent of hessed, acts of lov­ing-kind­ness. When the an­gels came to Abra­ham’s tent – where he him­self was in pain, re­cu­per­at­ing from his cir­cum­ci­sion – he rushed to greet his guests. In­ter­est­ingly, rather than ush­er­ing them into his tent, he feeds them “un­der the tree.” The rab­bis ques­tion Abra­ham’s hos­pi­tal­ity, but then point out that when a way­farer ar­rives from a trek through the desert, he needs food and drink im­me­di­ately; he doesn’t have the lux­ury of set­tling down in the tent. The les­son: Giv­ing to oth­ers must be com­pletely fo­cused on their needs, not our own; any­thing else is an act of tak­ing, not giv­ing.

The ex­trem­ist groups of moan­ers and mal­con­tents – Bend the Arc, Arc the Bend, Park the Ark Be­yond the Bend, or what­ever the heck they call them­selves – showed cal­lous­ness and cru­elty to the mourn­ers and, by ex­ten­sion, to all Jews, when they de­cided that the Pitts­burgh killings were fer­tile soil in which to plant their own seeds of dis­con­tent. Thank­fully – de­spite the ex­ag­ger­ated cover­age given th­ese mot­ley few by this pa­per’s own po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor – the Jewish world largely ig­nored their protests and we ad­mirably closed ranks, show­er­ing the be­reaved with noth­ing but love. And that is how it should be.

On the first day of the shiva mourn­ing pe­riod for our beloved son Ari, a close friend with whom I had had a bit of a fall­ing out came to see me. Hug­ging me, he whis­pered in my ear, “What­ever is­sues we had be­tween us, what­ever our dis­putes, they are over now. All is for­given, all is for­got­ten, only our friend­ship re­mains.”

Jews are al­ways go­ing to have dif­fer­ences of opin­ion, some of them over se­ri­ous and vi­tal is­sues that mean the world to us. But none of that mat­ters as much, post-Pitts­burgh. For as long we can pos­si­bly hold out, let’s hope that the things that bind us far out­weigh those that di­vide us.

The ex­trem­ist groups of moan­ers and mal­con­tents showed cal­lous­ness and cru­elty to the mourn­ers and, by ex­ten­sion, to all Jews, when they de­cided that the Pitts­burgh killings were fer­tile soil in which to plant their own seeds of dis­con­tent


WOR­SHIPERS AT­TEND a ‘Show Up For Shab­bat’ ser­vice at New York City’s JCC Har­lem on Novem­ber 3, a sup­port­ive re­sponse to the pre­vi­ous Satur­day’s shoot­ing at the Tree of Life sy­n­a­gogue in Pitts­burgh.

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