Friday marks the fifth anniversary of the deadliest act of antisemitic violence in U.S. history, when the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh endured a shooting that claimed the lives of 11 worshippers. Jordan Golin, head of Jewish Family and Community Services Pittsburgh, reflects on the complex emotions experienced by the community during that time. While the attack was painful and challenging, the outpouring of support from various religious groups provided a sense of healing and reassurance.
Muslim groups raised nearly $200,000 to assist with the burial of the victims and offered to stand guard at the synagogue. Christian congregations extended invitations to their churches and provided support and gifts. The community rallied around the Jewish community, understanding the horror of such an act taking place in a supposedly safe sanctuary.
However, this October, Golin and others in the community express feelings of isolation and fear following the recent Hamas attack on Israeli civilians and Israel’s bombing of Gaza. They are surprised by the different reactions of neighbors who had previously shown support. Instances of antisemitic graffiti have been reported on school properties in Pittsburgh, and the Anti-Defamation League has documented a 388% spike in antisemitic incidents since October 7, with over half of them linked to the war in Gaza.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations also reports an increase in anti-Muslim incidents, receiving 774 complaints since October 7, the highest number in three weeks since 2015. Golin notes a shift in the community dynamics, where political beliefs and foreign policy now impact neighborly behavior. Conversations have become difficult as it is challenging to separate the politics of the Middle East from the lives of American Jews.
As the community approaches the fifth commemoration of the shooting, many members feel the absence of the support they once received. The climate on college campuses remains tense, with competing protests and demonstrations in support of Hamas or Israel, each condemning the other’s views as murderous.
The Tree of Life synagogue shooting remains a significant event in the history of antisemitic violence in the United States. The community’s reflections on the past five years highlight the changing dynamics and challenges faced by the Jewish community in Pittsburgh.