Tree of Life Shooting: Reflection

By Mehr MukhtarImage from

The tragic and deadly shooting at the Tree of Life Shooting synagogue in Pittsburgh, killing eleven people, was not an isolated incident. It reignites questions about the need for stricter gun laws, but it also accentuates an unfortunate rise in hate crimes and religious or race-based violence. Jewish communities in North America look both within their community and outside of it for support during these difficult times.

In a sermon following the shooting, Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, the Tree of Life Rabbi, accused politicians of spewing rhetoric that legitimizes hate crimes. President Donald Trump and his administration have been frequently criticized for igniting ethnic or religious divisions that feed into and enable hateful rhetoric and violence. Trump’s characterization of himself as a nationalist has been correlated to the rise in hate speech and violence, and ethnic or religious-based harassment has become more pertinent particularly through online platforms. The normalization of hateful rhetoric facilitates the spread of attacks on religious and ethnic minorities. While individuals like Robert Bowers, the suspected gunman of The Tree of Life shooting, are ultimately responsible for their actions, the spread and normalization of hateful rhetoric contribute to the radicalization of these individuals and the frequency at which these tragic events occur.

While Trump continues his discordant approach to these times of difficulty, one can’t help but wonder about the message he sends to radical individuals and groups. One deranged act by a fringe group cannot reflect on a leader, but the inaccurate information and divisive rhetoric spewed by President Trump reflects on his character and his presidency. Tom Malinowski, a former State Department official, commented on the Tree of Life shooting: “These words are like sparks to the gasoline of disturbed minds.” While coverage of presidential opinions and speeches is important, the mainstream media’s diligent coverage of these fabrications allows them to be amplified and accepted.

Trump and his administration have created a bitter battleground for extremists and the minorities they target, particularly Jewish and Muslim communities. It is ensuing a cataclysmic state of affairs that diverse houses of worship, such as The Tree of Life Synagogue and Dar Al Farooq Islamic Centre, unite in the face of their shared adversity. In an era where political polarization, hateful rhetoric, and violence have peaked, it is imperative that individuals within the United States of America and globally pursue individual and collective harmony and unity.

Amnesty International UofT and Candlelight would like to respectfully commemorate the victims of this hateful crime:
Daniel Stein, 71
Joyce Feinberg, 75
Richard Gottfried, 65
Rose Mallinger, 97
Jerry Rabinowitz, 66
Brothers Cecil Rosenthal, 59, and David Rosenthal, 54
Husband and Wife Bernice Simon, 84, and Sylvan Simon, 86
Melvin Wax, 88
Irvin Younger, 69

May their memories be a blessing.

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