By Salomon Maya
August 20, 2018: A tired three-year-old boy falls asleep in the car after visiting Kennywood, one of the oldest amusement parks in America, located just outside of Pittsburgh, Penn. He sleeps peacefully, occasionally shifting his weight but for the most part perfectly comfortable deep within his REM sleep. His birthday outing has really tuckered him out. On the way back from the park, we pass the Tree of Life synagogue before arriving at our family’s home in Squirrel Hill, and I never thought about the synagogue again, until…
October 27, 2018: Sirens flashing. Grey rainy skies. Armed law enforcement with rifles in the background. Confused reporters attempting to decipher what was happening. And the news chyron, stating something we have heard too many times before. A mass shooting. A mass shooting at the very same synagogue I had visited over two months ago.
October 29, 2018: Walking up to Temple Beth Israel in La Jolla had always been for fun happy moments. My nephew had his Bar Mitzvah there a couple years prior. But this night wasn’t one of those moments. The line of cars waiting to enter the road which housed the synagogue seemed to run endlessly, a string of bright red break lights as the traffic halted into a standstill. I parked four blocks away and begun the hike to pay my respects for the eleven souls taken from us in Pittsburgh by a deranged, pitiful animal two days prior and pray for the ones still injured.
I stood in the back, snapped a couple pictures. Uploaded them to my social media with the caption “All Jews must unite.” The temple dais was filled with Rabbis I knew, some I didn’t. In the audience I could pick out some elected officials, including Mayor Faulconer. I looked to my right and realized I was standing right next to Bonnie Dumanis. A Muslim Imam stood up and spoke beautifully about how an attack on one is an attack on all. He pleaded with law enforcement to protect us. But most importantly, he begged for peace and love. A Sikh woman also spoke. She too echoed the same sentiments. I also saw multiple Priests in the audience. A woman in a Hijab. I didn’t just see Jews. I saw people. I saw community. I saw humanity at its best when reminded how ugly humanity can truly be. In that moment, regardless of their individual faiths, we were all Jewish.
“All Jews must die.” This is what the shooter in Pittsburgh believed.
I took my phone out of my pocket and went to my Facebook page. The picture of the entire temple still propped at the top of my feed. I edited my caption though, feeling I was wrong. I edited it and it now read:
All of us must unite.
As Jews, we have lit too many candles. I hope that one day we won’t need to. But until that day comes. I know that love will prevail. Hate will not win. The shooter will rot in prison and possibly one day be executed. But the pain will forever linger. For the many victims of this hate crime. To the family’s shattered on a rainy Saturday Pennsylvania morning.
To the victims of anti-Semitism, we mourn you.
To the survivors of anti-Semitism, we hear you.
To the perpetrators of anti-Semitism, we see you.
To the world who has allowed anti-Semitism, I am Jewish. I am proud. I am Pittsburgh. I am San Diego. I am love. And no amount of hate will ever extinguish that flame.