10 December 2018
On 27 October, Robert Bowers opened fire in the ‘Tree of Life’ Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill area of Pittsburgh. Eleven people were killed and several others injured including some police officers.
The synagogue congregation is close-knit and liberal in outlook. It is well knownin a largely Jewish neighbourhood where the epithet ‘Squirrel Hill Jew’ iswidely used and respected.
There was no doubt that this heinous crime was motivated by antisemitism. The gunman apparently supported far-right views. He was carrying an assault rifle and three handguns and opened fire with the cry,‘All Jews must die.’
Three things happened in the immediate aftermath. The local community gathered together in solidarity for an open-air vigil to remember those who had been brutally and recklessly murdered at the synagogue.
The former rabbi broadened the perspective and tamed the attack with a touch of Jewish humour. ‘We were lucky,’ he said. ‘It was the beginning of services and Jews always come late.’
Some people began to talk about gun control again. Whereas we take the common sense view that if people carry guns then someone is going to get killed, people in America paradoxically carry guns to protect themselves from people who carry guns!