Learning a gunman opened fire and shot 11 people to death while injuring six others on Saturday at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh really hit home as a Jewish man, but not for the reasons you may think.
I grew up understanding anti-Semitism existed and was very real. I understood my parents moved our family to Highland Park, Ill. – a suburb of Chicago – a little more than a month before my seventh birthday because the majority of residents were Jewish and anti-Semitism would be minimized.
When my family would take driving trips during the holidays, my mom and dad prepared us for others to say, “Merry Christmas,” and not even give any thought to the fact that we may be Jewish. They told us to just say, “Thank you,” to avoid anyone acting on their prejudices.
There was no way for my mom and dad to shelter their kids from the way Christmas dominated society in general with all the Christmas trees, songs, shows on TV and everything else that is commonplace in our culture.
Many have expressed the view this is a Christian nation as if those principles take center stage.
What I am trying to say is I saw the social biases I was fighting against with my Jewish heritage from a very young age.
But, in my life, that’s where the biases stopped. I never found myself at any economic disadvantage for being Jewish. In fact, “All in the Family” fans may remember the running gag of the character Archie Bunker hiring the law firm Rabinowitz, Rabinowitz and Rabinowitz to represent him because his anti-Semitism made him believe he would receive better legal counsel.
Rarely ever have I thought being Jewish hurt my chances to succeed in the workplace.
I knew there were those who hated Jewish people because of their religion or heritage. After all, we had the Holocaust that led to the deaths of around six million Jews and organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan are still in full force.
However, with my personal experiences, the hate people have against me because I am Jewish was not always at the forefront of my mind.
It is human nature for all of us to think in such a manner, but it does not have to be that way.
Prejudice hurts all of us, no matter how common it is and whether or not we are the direct victim of hate.
When those 11 lives were lost at the Tree of Life Synagogue, all of us suffered, and that went way deeper than the compassion we have as a society. We lost the friendships, contributions and wisdom those 11 individuals would have provided us in the coming days and years.
Take 97-year-old Rose Mallinger, the oldest of the shooting victims, who was alive during World War II and the Holocaust. Think about the wisdom she could have continued to provide and the stories she would have been able to tell had she not been tragically killed on Saturday.
Now, fewer people will hear first-hand accounts from someone who lived during those very tumultuous times. That is society’s loss, regardless of what our background is.
We have had many tragic shootings in recent years.
One of the most notable ones came at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Conn., in December 2012. The children and families were not the only victims of what happened.
Society was a victim.
The same goes for the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue almost six years later.
We must act collectively as a nation, show unity to find common ground as a nation and find a way to lessen these shootings.
Whether or not we are in the line of fire does not change how real the problem is. It is our problem.
I may never lose a job or know anyone who loses a life due to anti-Semitism, but I still suffer when others are senselessly killed at a synagogue because they are Jewish.
Let’s take the hurt many of us feel from Saturday’s tragedy and rally to make the world a better place.
Josh Troy is the managing editor of The Clarksdale Press Register. He can be reached by calling 662-627-2201 or emailing email@example.com.