Student Spotlight – Being An Ally Is Bigger Than Thoughts and Prayers: A Response to Modern Anti-Semitism and The Tree of Life Synagogue Shooting, by Antonia Ford
This article was originally published by Tech Inclusion on November 6 2018
I grew up in a bubble of privilege and ignorance that had me thinking anti-semitism was something that only existed on the pages of history books. When I went away to college in the Bay Area, I had the opportunity to study the Middle East and the origins of Judaism. More importantly, I witnessed the very real and very current discrimination against and marginalization of Jewish students and professionals. Jews seemed to be held in some special “other” category, where their status as a religious and ethnic minority was ignored because many of them were white-passing. Jews of color, LGBTQ+ Jews, and Jews motivated to fight for social justice were and still are excluded from intersectional gatherings based on prejudice and false assumptions about their political leanings. What happened last week in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania shone a harsh light on the very real anti-semitism that still pervades our society.
This is why we, as allies, need to do more than just show up. We must acknowledge the weight of injustice that rests on our friends’ shoulders, and we must work tirelessly to remove this burden. The days of thoughts and prayers being sufficient consolation for their pain are over. It is no longer acceptable to be ignorant about the people around us and the obstacles they face; we must reach out, lean in, and listen up to the narratives of those who walk a different path than our own.
Over the last week, people have been taking to social media in droves, offering sincere thoughts and prayers for the “senseless act of violence”, the “loss of life”, and the “tragedy” that took place at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The truth is, this wasn’t just another act of violence, loss of life, or tragedy; it was the worst act of anti-semitism in US history. Robert Bowers did not just kill people, he killed Jews. On the Sabbath, in their place of worship. It was a hate crime. Not calling what happened at the Tree of Life synagogue for what it is, actively erases the hateful ideology that fueled it.
Today, it’s time to stand with the Jewish communities in our own cities and beyond; to show them that we are ready to join in their fight against erasure. Let us take a page from the book of the Muslim-American community in Pittsburgh, who “wish to respond to evil with good, as our faith instructs us, and send a powerful message of compassion through action”. This resulted in their raising over $150,000 for the families of the victims.
We all have a right to be proud of who we are and what we believe in. The Jewish people have stood in solidarity with civil rights leaders against racism and oppression because they, too, know what it is like to be considered second class citizens. They understand what it means to turn injustice into intersectionality, and to focus on solutions. In the words of a dear friend who grew up attending B’Nei Mitzvahs and Rosh Hashanahs in the very synagogue where 11 Jews were gunned down last week:
“It’s 2018 and we shouldn’t have to keep fighting, but we will.
Please vote. Vote in their memory. Vote to take these hate-infusing, nationalists out of office. Vote so that assault rifles are removed from the hands of the wicked. Vote so that I don’t have to go to work terrified.
Hug your friends. Check in on your Jewish communities. Be an ally. Anti-semitism is still alive and hate crimes have gone up. Call the jokes out, and stand up for your friends.”