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Former synagogue president: Trump not welcome

Former president of the Tree of Life Synagogue Lynette Lederman says President Trump is a "purveyor of hate speech" and is not welcome in Pittsburgh in the wake of a shooting that killed 11.

Posted: Oct 30, 2018 4:44 PM
Updated: Oct 30, 2018 4:44 PM

I live in Squirrel Hill, one of the most enduring Jewish communities in the United States, and the site of a terrorist attack Saturday at the Tree of Life Synagogue, just three blocks from my house.

I can hear news helicopters over my house as I write. I'm grateful for the media that are reporting the truth of what happened here. I cannot tell you why a person would fire into a group of worshipers at prayer. But I am a political scientist, so I know a bit about the anger and hatred many ordinary Americans have against people they label as "the other."

I know most Americans would never think of doing something so heinous, and yet many people participate in and contribute to the bigotry and stereotyping that apparently gave a sick, angry man the idea to commit this evil crime.

The dehumanizing needs to stop.

Practicing Jews make up less than 2% of the American population, and nearly all of that population lives in cities and suburbs, mostly in the Northeast. That means that a large majority of non-Jewish Americans are not familiar with Jews in their daily lives. In fact, for some, all they think they know of Jews are the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about an international Jewish cabal that fester on social media, the kinds of lies that allegedly prompted Robert Bowers to bring terror to my neighborhood.

I have seen friends and family, people I love and who I know love me, share false memes on social media about how George Soros and other Jews are orchestrating the so-called "caravan" of migrants from Central America. I do not believe these people know this falsehood is part of an anti-Semitic lie about how Jews secretly control world events. I do not believe when they shared the memes, they were thinking they could prompt someone to attack my neighborhood. But people have become so angry, so distrustful, that they have become unknowingly complicit in the spread of this dangerous lie.

So as a non-Jew, let me tell you a little bit about what it is like to live in Squirrel Hill. This is, quite literally, Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. Fred Rogers filmed his show just down the road from here. Both my boys have met David Newell, the actor who played Mr. McFeely ("Speedy delivery!"), because we just happened upon him as we walked along the shops and restaurants here.

The entire community of Squirrel Hill, including the Tree of Life synagogue, is within an eruv. Orthodox Jews are not permitted to carry things -- even a baby or their keys -- outside of their homes on the Sabbath. An eruv is a ritual enclosure (it is mostly made of strings, which you wouldn't notice if you weren't looking) that transforms our community into the equivalent of one large private home. The eruv makes it easier for Orthodox Jews to move around, but it reinforces the idea that this community is our home.

Squirrel Hill is an urban neighborhood within Pittsburgh. But my children are allowed to walk by themselves to the Squirrel Hill branch of the Carnegie Public Library or to Rita's for frozen custard. It is safe here. On Saturday night, hundreds of us gathered at the corner of Murray and Forbes at a candlelight vigil. The students at Taylor Allderdice High School arranged it themselves. They said they did it because they didn't want to be alone and they didn't think we wanted to be alone, either. This is a beautiful community.

You should visit. You would like it here.

But if you can't visit, please consider being careful to avoid the pitfalls that come with defining people you do not know as "the other." How? First, don't spread unsourced internet memes. We know that foreign nationals tried to tamper with our election in 2016, and that they are doing it again.

Second, educate yourself. We know a lot about how people can manipulate people's fear and anger of "outsiders" to further their own agendas. The Anti-Defamation League and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum have resources to help you learn how you might be manipulated.

Finally, tune out politicians who try to stoke fear and anger about people different from you. Fear and anger are powerful motivators. They are a good way to get people to participate and to vote. But they aren't good for our national discourse. They aren't good for you. And as Saturday's events make clear, they are not good for this beautiful, peaceful neighborhood.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 28770

Reported Deaths: 1092
CountyConfirmedDeaths
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Harrison79410
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Smith21111
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Tallahatchie1153
Jefferson Davis1074
Prentiss1003
Greene968
Jefferson963
Wilkinson929
Tunica903
Amite842
George753
Tishomingo731
Choctaw724
Quitman690
Perry634
Alcorn601
Stone541
Franklin392
Benton270
Sharkey270
Issaquena81
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 41362

Reported Deaths: 983
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson4532143
Montgomery3875102
Mobile3797134
Tuscaloosa210739
Marshall162210
Lee124537
Shelby110923
Madison11047
Morgan10203
Walker87123
Franklin86314
Dallas8419
Elmore83614
Baldwin7359
Etowah64413
DeKalb6415
Butler60727
Chambers60027
Tallapoosa57269
Autauga55312
Unassigned50724
Russell5030
Lowndes45820
Lauderdale4576
Houston4464
Limestone4290
Cullman4114
Pike4075
Colbert3775
Bullock3649
Coffee3592
Barbour3331
Covington3327
St. Clair3192
Marengo29911
Hale29621
Escambia2936
Wilcox2848
Talladega2827
Calhoun2805
Sumter27912
Clarke2686
Dale2620
Jackson2522
Winston2373
Blount2181
Pickens2176
Chilton2152
Marion20613
Monroe2052
Choctaw19212
Randolph1889
Conecuh1866
Greene1788
Macon1778
Bibb1761
Perry1541
Henry1303
Crenshaw1243
Washington1027
Lawrence1000
Cherokee797
Lamar711
Geneva700
Fayette671
Clay612
Coosa571
Cleburne301
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