The horrific shooting at the Pittsburgh Synagogue suggests that America, by being a peaceful haven for American Jewry, is actually helping to destroy it.
I haven’t commented about the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. I actually don’t think there’s much to say about the shooting itself. A rabid anti-Semite acted on his rage and did what anti-Semites have done since the Middle Ages: he killed Jews. He’ll face judgment in this life and, I’m quite sure, an infinitely worse judgment in the next. The End.
In this post, I want to blog about something else I noticed. Something everyone must have noticed: All of the congregants who died (may their memories be a blessing) were oldish to really old:
Joyce Fienberg, 75, of Oakland; Richard Gottfried, 65, of Ross Township; Rose Mallinger, 97, of Squirrel Hill; Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, of Edgewood; Cecil Rosenthal, 59, of Squirrel Hill; David Rosenthal, 54, of Squirrel Hill; Bernice Simon, 84, of Wilkinsburg; Sylvan Simon, 86, of Wilkinsburg; Daniel Stein, 71, of Squirrel Hill; Melvin Wax, 88, of Squirrel Hill, and Irving Youngner, 69, of Mount Washington.
According to reports I read, Saturday morning service was always the synagogue’s busiest day each week and the shooter had 20-30 minutes alone in that room before the police finally entered. (Shades of Parkland School there….) While oldish and really old people are obviously going to be the least agile in scattering and hiding, one would think that a busy service and a gunman with a lot of time on his hands would have resulted in a broader age spectrum of victims. The fact that it didn’t suggests that Tree of Life has an aging congregation. That got me thinking.
I went and looked at the synagogue’s website and saw that it offers two slightly different descriptions of itself. Here’s the first, on the home page:
Tree of Life * Or L’Simcha Congregation is a traditional, progressive and egalitarian congregation based in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood.
We offer a warm and welcoming environment where even the oldest Jewish traditions become relevant to the way our members live today. From engaging services, social events, family-friendly activities and learning opportunities to support in times of illness or sorrow, we match the old with the new to deliver conservative Jewish tradition that’s accessible, warm and progressive.
And here’s the second, which substitutes “conservative” for “traditional”:
Tree of Life Congregation was founded more than 150 years ago, Or L’Simcha about 5 years ago. In 2010, the two Pittsburgh congregations merged to form Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha. As a conservative Jewish congregation, Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha remains true to traditional teachings, yet is also progressive and relevant to the way we live today. From our warm, inviting and intellectually stimulating atmosphere to our fun adult, children and family programs, it’s the perfect environment to grow a strong faith rooted in tradition.
For those of you wondering about the importance of the words “conservative” and “traditional,” let me explain as best as I can. Although I was raised without a synagogue, I’m Jewish enough in orientation to have picked up a few things. [Read more…]