A letter to our community on the anti-Semitic shooting in Pittsburgh

Words are insufficient to convey our community’s heartbreak, horror and pain at yesterday’s heinous, anti-Semitic shooting at Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha Congregation in Pittsburgh. 

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From Andrew S. Hochberg, Chairman of the Board, and Steven B. Nasatir, President

Words are insufficient to convey our community's heartbreak, horror and pain at yesterday's heinous, anti-Semitic shooting at Tree of Life*Or L'Simcha Congregation in Pittsburgh. This constitutes the worst attack on members of the American Jewish community in the history of our country. 

Our hearts are in Pittsburgh as we mourn the loss of 11 innocent lives and pray for a refua shleima for the injured, including the brave police officers who are among the wounded. We are thankful for their courage, and our hearts ache for them and their families.

We remain grateful to every level of law enforcement, from the FBI and Homeland Security to our first responders and local police departments, from whom our community continues to receive such invaluable support.

For all Americans, this deadly assault-committed on Shabbat, at a synagogue-is a terrible reminder of the persistence and lethal danger of anti-Semitism. We join together with our fellow Americans across faith communities in condemning the rising tide of anti-Semitism, white nationalism, racism and hatred directed at Jews and other vulnerable minorities. An attack on one community is an attack on all Americans, and the ideals for which our diverse nation stands. We call upon our elected officials and all people of good will to have zero tolerance for anti-Semitism-and all forms of hatred-denouncing it and calling it out whenever and wherever it takes place. 

JUF is delivering multi-faceted support in response to this tragedy, starting with bringing our community together to stand as one with our brothers and sisters in Pittsburgh.  

  • On Thursday, Nov. 1 at noon we will convene an Interfaith Solidarity Gathering at Swissotel Chicago, 323 E. Upper Wacker Drive, through our Jewish Community Relations Council, an opportunity for us to express our collective grief and hope.
  • Next Shabbat, Nov. 2-3 , at the initiative of JUF's Rabbinic Action Committee and our Chicago Board of Rabbis, synagogues across the nation will observe a special Solidarity Shabbat, coming together across denominations to pray, to mourn, and to strengthen one another. Shabbat was taken from us in the name of hate; we must reclaim Shabbat in the name of love. We hope you will find it meaningful to participate with local congregations.
  • We have opened a Pittsburgh Solidarity Fund --https://donate.juf.org/pittsburgh  -- to help provide psychological services, support for families, medical bills for all those involved, reconstruction, and security. This is in addition to the $25,000 sent as an initial grant to the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh's Victims of Terror Fund earmarked for the wide variety of personal and communal needs arising from this tragedy. We will continue to assess the needs in that community on an ongoing basis.
  • Building upon JUF's $2.9 million Matching Security Grant program in 2017, we will be providing additional support for local synagogues in need of security enhancements.

This murderous, hateful attack at Tree of Life*Or L'Simcha Congregation underscores the critical importance of continuous and vigilant security, and JUF remains committed to doing everything we can to foster the safety of our community members.  As always, we are working in partnership with our local synagogues, Jewish schools, preschools and agencies, providing individual security consultations and linking them to the resources of the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and local law enforcement. 

In addition, we are planning a follow-up Security Summit, building on the Security Summit held in March 2017, to further enhance security at our local Jewish institutions. These trainings and assessments complement the many millions of dollars made available through our own JUF Security Grant program and allocations supporting local security programs, as well as JUF's assistance with the U.S. Homeland Security grant program, helping to make Jewish buildings safer.

As Jews, we are commanded in the Torah to "Choose Life," even in the face of tragedy. That is what our brothers and sisters in Pittsburgh will do, and we in Chicago will join with Jewish communities around the world in supporting them, and through our actions further secure our collective future as Americans and as Jews.  

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