Synagogue shootings — now a thing: 10 things to know for April 28
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Synagogue shootings — now a thing: 10 things to know for April 28

The second deadly attack on a congregation in six months leaves Jews in the US and Israel reeling, mourning, praising heroes and being dogged by anti-Semitism from all sides

A group gathers outside the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for a vigil to honor the victims of a shooting attack on another synagogue in Poway, California, on April 27, 2019. (AP/Gene J. Puskar)
A group gathers outside the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for a vigil to honor the victims of a shooting attack on another synagogue in Poway, California, on April 27, 2019. (AP/Gene J. Puskar)

1. Wake up: The second synagogue shooting in the US in under a year — six months, to be exact — has sent yet another chill into the American Jewish community, and Israel as well.

  • Anti-Defamation League head Jonathan Greenblatt says that an annual report on anti-Semitism in the US shows that it is continuing to rise.
  • “We have seen an increase in harassment, in vandalism, in violence,” he says. The numbers are “not good.”
  • “Moving forward this must serve as yet another wake-up call that antisemitism is a growing and deadly menace,” says Sara J. Bloomfield, director of the National Holocaust Memorial Museum.

2. Ultimate sacrifice: The victim is named as Lori Gilbert-Kaye.

  • According to a Facebook post by friend Audrey Jacobs reprinted by the LA Jewish Journal, Gilbert-Kaye died while trying to shield Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, a fact picked up by some Hebrew news sites.
  • “Lori Gilbert-Kaye is a Jewish hero, and will be remembered as a hero in Jewish history. She sacrificed her own life, throwing herself in the path of the murderer’s bullets to save the life of the rabbi,” outgoing minister Naftali Bennett says in a statement Sunday morning.
  • Ronit Lev, another friend, tells Israel Radio that Gilbert-Kaye was in synagogue to say Kaddish for her mother.
  • “She was the most giving person I ever met,” she says.

3. Other heroes: There are also tales of heroism around the other three victims, who are in stable condition. Witnesses report that Goldstein insisted on finishing praying before going to the hospital, and according to witnesses, tried to calm both the congregation and shooter.

  • “He prayed for peace,” congregant Minoo Anvari is quoted telling the Chabad website. “Even in spite of being injured he refused to go to the hospital until he spoke. And he finished his speech and he then left the synagogue.”
  • The two other victims are identified as Israelis, one an 8-year-old girl whose family moved to California from Sderot because it was safer, according to some reports, and her uncle who was visiting for Passover.
  • Maariv reports that the uncle jumped in front of a five-year-old girl who got separated from her family in the chaos as the gunman burst in. “Eyewitnesses say that had he not, the girl could have paid with her life.”

4. Enough: The fact that the attack came exactly six months after Pittsburgh is not lost on anyone, and links between the attacks are not hard to come by.

  • “THIS MUST STOP. We are heartbroken — and appalled and outraged,” the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, which was attacked in October, says in a statement Saturday.
  • Congregants and others gathered outside the Pittsburgh synagogue for a vigil after the attack Saturday night.
  • “The shooting in San Diego takes us backward. No synagogue is safe,” a Pittsburgh rabbi tells Israel’s Army Radio.

5. Joined against hate: The shooting also served to show just how intertwined the Jewish and Muslim communities are, especially given a manifesto apparently written by shooter John Earnest that makes plain his hatred for Muslims.

  • In the manifesto he mentions that he also set fire to a mosque nearby a month ago, and that he was inspired by New Zealand mosque shooter Brenton Tarrant.
  • “The … note is similar in both format and tone to the one written by Tarrant, who killed 49 people last month. Tarrant and Pittsburgh synagogue shooter Robert Bowers are listed as a direct inspiration in the letter, which is riddled with almost exclusively anti-Semitic tropes and advocacy for white supremacy,” notes NBC news.
  • Minneapolis Rabbi Michael Latz notes on Twitter that Muslims understand the fact that both communities are threatened by the same forces.
  • First people to offer me condolences after #PowaySynagogueShooting? Muslims.Why? They get it. Because we’re #cousins. Our love is stronger than hate,” he writes.
  • It’s a sentiment shared by others.
  • In Haaretz, Amir Tibon notes that in the manifesto, the shooter claimed that he was not a terrorist because he was not Muslim (and he quotes from the actual, even more offensive words used in the screed). He adds that “since Earnest is a white Christian, many media outlets in the US indeed did not call him a terrorist, and made do with the terms ‘shooter’ or ‘attacker.’”

6. Political theater: Extremism expert Eric Ward tells ToI’s Eric Cortellessa of the dangers of allowing hateful manifestos like those of Earnest to be spread around.

  • “What we should understand, for this shooter, is that it’s an act of political theater. He wants this manifesto out there. He wants the media to circulate the manifesto, he wants to let this shooting becomes the vehicle to spread the ideas in this manifesto,” Ward is quoted saying.

7. The crayon is mightier? While most reached across the aisle and forgot partisan divides to condemn the hatred, some connected the attack to Democrats or an anti-Semitic cartoon in the New York Times.

  • “The words, the demonstrators and the cartoons turn into shootings against worshipers in synagogues. Anti-Semitism continues to raise its head and take victims. This is the time for action, for a determined war and not for weak and hollow condemnations that allow the forces of hate to revive dark periods in history,” Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon says in apparent reference to the New York Times cartoon.
  • Former ambassador to the US Danny Ayalon is more blunt.
  • Zionist Organization of America head Mort Klein meanwhile condemns the attack in the same breath with which he calls on Congressional leaders to go after Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.
  • And some are sharing a clip of Fox News appearing to cut off former US diplomat Joel Rubin for connecting the attacker to Trump’s rhetoric. The announcer does say “Joel” a few times, in what some see as him telling his guest to stop, but it could just as easily have been the channel trying to warn him that they need to go to break, as happens often.

 

  • Rubin himself says it was a “legitimate commercial break.”

 

8. Leftist dogs: Looking up the word “anti-Semitism” in Google News Sunday morning, one gets about the same number of hits for Poway as for the New York Times cartoon story.

  • Israel Hayom gives the incident front page real estate, a full two-page spread inside and two opinion columns, including the paper’s Amnon Lord blaming “the left” for deadly anti-Semitism.
  • “This is a dark hatred of which a little bit burst forth in the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting,” he writes, accusing the NY Times, which has no shortage of Jews on staff, of being anti-Semitic at its core. “ It’s so bad that the middle level of editors find it natural to insert a caricature so clearly anti-Semitic.”
  • Channel 20 anchor Shimon Riklis calls the cartoon “worse than the billboards of George Soros” that were used in Hungary and slammed as anti-Semitic. “Those same journalists who made a ruckus then over the Hungarian government are the same that are silent now with the New York Times. Because with the left, values are never consistent.”
  • “This is how you draw hatred,” reads a headline on the front page of Yedioth Ahronoth, though the actual story seems to have gotten shunted aside to make room for the Chabad shooting, leaving only room for a piccap on the cartoon.

9. Not an apology: American Jewish groups are also incredibly angry over the cartoon, and many note that the New York Times did not actually apologize in its clarification note, though some still describe it as an apology.

  • Apology or not, the American Jewish Committee tells the gray lady to shove it.
  • “No, “apology” isn’t adequate. Rather, @nytimes owes readers an explanation of how this happened — after all, decision to print it involved more than one person — & what it says about the paper’s view of Israel & Jews,” the group’s David Harris tweets.
  • Alan Dershowitz agrees and then some:

 

10. Swap team: Israel’s decision to release two Syrian prisoners as a “goodwill gesture” after the return of the remains of soldier Zachary Baumel also gets massive play.

  • Many media reports cast a jaundiced eye at the claim that there was no quid-pro-quo and it was all ad hoc.
  • In Haaretz, Amos Harel notes that the release signals weakness to Hamas, with whom Israel is negotiating the release of bodies and civilians.
  • “We’re returning to the formula of live prisoners in exchange for soldiers’ remains,” he writes. “Hamas is surely taking notes.”
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