Hate can't diminish 'Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood'

I live in Squirrel Hill, one of the most enduring Jewish communities in the United States, and the site of a...

Posted: Oct 29, 2018 8:13 PM
Updated: Oct 29, 2018 8:13 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."

Anti-semitism

Celebrities

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Minority and ethnic groups

Racism and racial discrimination

Societal issues

Society

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.

Cases: 250869

Reported Deaths: 5481
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17010171
Hinds16091318
Harrison13250193
Rankin10629208
Jackson10216182
Lee8759141
Madison8186161
Jones6222109
Forrest5917118
Lauderdale5808180
Lowndes5309111
Lafayette491192
Lamar480465
Washington4770123
Bolivar3955106
Oktibbeha390380
Panola365076
Pontotoc361152
Monroe3521104
Warren344597
Union341458
Marshall339165
Neshoba3357152
Pearl River323295
Leflore2992105
Lincoln295685
Sunflower280469
Tate269560
Alcorn262653
Itawamba261159
Hancock260458
Pike259977
Scott244745
Prentiss244052
Yazoo242654
Tippah239749
Copiah239149
Simpson233967
Leake229564
Coahoma228554
Grenada217070
Covington210471
Marion208371
Adams203270
Winston199464
Wayne198730
George197938
Attala193158
Newton189142
Chickasaw182944
Tishomingo182159
Holmes168167
Jasper167735
Clay158233
Stone141520
Tallahatchie139234
Clarke137460
Calhoun135121
Smith119423
Yalobusha116134
Walthall111736
Noxubee110222
Greene109129
Montgomery109134
Carroll104121
Lawrence102117
Perry100531
Amite96825
Webster91924
Tunica86021
Claiborne85525
Jefferson Davis84025
Humphreys82624
Benton81023
Kemper76620
Quitman6838
Franklin65815
Choctaw60013
Wilkinson58325
Jefferson53419
Sharkey42417
Issaquena1596
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 420681

Reported Deaths: 6119
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson61755921
Mobile30058548
Madison26852186
Tuscaloosa20652266
Montgomery18876305
Shelby18421114
Baldwin16176182
Lee12393101
Morgan12175113
Etowah11687168
Calhoun11078200
Marshall10158107
Houston8556148
Cullman7999105
Limestone796274
Elmore7783101
DeKalb767197
Lauderdale752883
St. Clair7502120
Talladega6145108
Walker5880174
Jackson578841
Colbert529873
Blount529283
Autauga515455
Coffee438156
Dale394381
Franklin365248
Chilton335365
Covington326968
Russell326810
Escambia316142
Dallas302896
Chambers281869
Clarke279633
Tallapoosa2607107
Pike247629
Marion244650
Lawrence242547
Winston225535
Bibb214447
Geneva199535
Marengo197829
Pickens196231
Hale175442
Barbour172336
Butler168458
Fayette167126
Cherokee160030
Henry152721
Monroe145017
Randolph138835
Washington137026
Clay126145
Crenshaw118644
Lamar117519
Cleburne117223
Macon114335
Lowndes109535
Wilcox102621
Bullock98728
Perry96919
Conecuh94220
Sumter88826
Greene75723
Coosa60515
Choctaw51224
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