Shalom to our brothers and sisters

We write today to share our grief and sorrow with the Jewish community of Squirrel Hill in Pittsburgh, PA, with local Jewish communities across the country, and with the international Jewish community. We reach out to our Jewish – and non-Jewish – readers and take a public stand against anti-Semitism. What happened this past Saturday (October 27th) is horrific. To our Jewish friends, neighbors, community and national leaders we say Shalom. Peace.

The hatred expressed by the killer at Tree of Life Synagogue was extreme. It is a hatred that many want to believe is a part of history, no longer with us. Yet anti-Semitism is alive and well: think about how often those of us who are not Jewish express or don’t challenge negative stereotypes of Jews, or choose to “overlook” or not recognize the Jewishness of our friends, co-workers, civic leaders, physicians, lawyers, accountants, nonprofit leaders and supporters.

Earlier this year we had dinner with our niece and her friend, both of whom are Jewish. Both are proud of who they are, but also recognize the reality of what it means to be identified as Jewish especially in the South. They wear the star of David, but often tuck it away so others won’t see it. For them, part of being visible as a Jew means being targeted.

This Saturday the world learned that such caution is not “exaggerated.” We saw first hand the reality of how anti-Semitism can be violently expressed.

In this current environment, we call attention to the leadership, vision, and sustained giving and involvement of Jewish people locally and across this country. Within the nonprofit sector Jewish people fulfill so many important roles as volunteers, advocates, leaders, and donors. They are behind the scenes and out front. Giving to the poor and the needy is part of their religion and their culture. Their giving includes giving to Jewish causes and it extends into all aspects of American and international affairs. Whether it is civil rights, health, education, refugee resettlement, economic development, domestic abuse or other issues the Jewish community has always demonstrated leadership to social and civic justice and a commitment to giving back. Tzedakah is part of Jewish culture: it is a commitment to giving to the needy, not out of charity but out of commitment to justice.

We say thank you for their leadership and giving. Now is the time for the total community to share in their hour of sorrow and sadness. It is also time to say through the words and actions of our nonprofits, our churches, and civic and social organizations that we do not tolerate hate.

We join forces with our Jewish nonprofit leaders and supporters to rise above this atmosphere of hate and divisiveness. We know that the nonprofit community – in this climate – can make a positive impact and take an explicit stand against anti-Semitism. Nonprofits are one place where we gather together across our differences to make a difference. Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with you and me. Shalom.

Copyright 2018 – Mel and Pearl Shaw

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