Sunday, October 28, 2018

Pogrom in Pittsburgh

Pogrom in Pittsburgh
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
October 28, 2018

Shouting “all Jews must die,” a deranged 46-year old male, with nothing but evil in the chest cavity where a heart should be located, and armed with four guns, began firing upon the Tree of Life-Or L’simcha synagogue congregation in the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh, observing Shabbat and celebrating the naming of a newborn baby.

The end result of the carnage left 11 dead and six wounded - four of whom are heroic police officers confronting the worst attack on the Jewish community in the history of the United States. The  murdered ranged in ages from 54 to 97, including a pair of brothers, and a married couple who received their nuptials at that very shul.

Coming off a week that seemed to conclude with the capture of an alleged sender of more than a dozen pipe-bombs and other suspicious packages to prominent and elected people, Shabbat, the day of rest in the Jewish community should have provided a much needed respite. Not linking these activities or perpetrators other than by the nature of their incivility and dastardly deeds, we are at a tipping point in this country where discourse and the value and sanctity of life are concerned.

For millennia the Jewish people have been the canary in the coal mine - there’s never an off-season where anti-Semitism is concerned. From centuries of enslavement in Egypt and the Spanish Inquisition, to pogroms in Russia and Poland and the Holocaust of European Jewry which witnessed the slaughter of six million innocents, the Jews, simply by worshipping differently, sometimes dining differently, even dressing differently, have chosen to live life as G-d has commanded.

In the United States, where freedoms reign, and the Jewish people have assimilated, anti-Semitic acts still account for the greatest number of bias crimes against any minority group; and while few consider the Jewish people a minority group, the Jewish population in the United States is roughly 1.5 percent. In that, it’s a conundrum - a wealth of freedoms - freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to protect oneself with a firearm - yet those freedoms are used against us as a free people. One’s freedom of speech ends when it becomes a clear and present danger to others’ safety and lives. One’s right to use a firearm ends when it is used in the commission of a crime. It is incumbent upon the speaker and user to know where that line is and to not cross it.

This is why the United States is a nation of laws, including the use of the death penalty, which I support, and President Donald Trump has called for in this case, even calling for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which has an execution moratorium, to reinstate it. In the eyes of a wicked act of pure evil, the ultimate punishment should be assessed. 

“This is an assault on all of us; an assault on humanity,” said Trump. “Monstrous killing of Jewish Americans at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. This evil anti-Semitic attack is an assault on all of us - it will require all of us working together to extract the hateful poison of anti-Semitism from our world - this scourge of anti-Semitism cannot be ignored; cannot be tolerated, and it cannot be allowed to continue,” he added, calling for the perpetrator to pay the ultimate price.

“What happened in Pittsburgh today was not just criminal - it was evil - an attack on innocent Americans and an assault on our freedom of religion,” said Vice President Mike Pence. “There’s no place in America for violence or anti-Semitism, and this evil must end,” he added.

The perpetrator is being charged with hate crimes versus domestic terrorism, although it won’t matter to the families of the victims. Clearly, acts of domestic terror were carried out as the captured suspect carried an AR-15 semi-automatic gun along with three Glock handguns into the synagogue. He will face 11 counts of homicide and 11 counts of obstruction of religious worship - state charges, as well as 29 federal charges which absolutely put the death penalty on the table.

Trump also called for increased security, such as armed guards, to ward off potential domestic terrorists. Pittsburgh’s Mayor Bill Peduto (D) disagreed, suggesting that removing firearms from potential murderers would be the better option. Unless someone telegraphs their future actions, mere words of hatred, which are legal, are not enough to deny someone their Second Amendment rights. Armed security guards are already employed at many of the mega-churches for Sundays and holidays, as well as synagogues during the High Holiday period of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. There is nothing wrong with employing piece of mind allowing people to worship freely. 

Let not the actions of an evil individual keep us from our houses of worship. Be resolved to attend them more often and more regularly to pray to the One G-d who created us to live on this planet in peace and harmony. Maintain the fervent G-d given wisdom to be ever vigilant of our enemies who have not learned that our churches and synagogues will never turn into killing fields, and remain steadfast in the safety and comfort of the L-rd and His Blessings.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN.


  1. Sanford, bless you for your eloquent plea. My freshman year college roommate was from Pittsburgh, and my visit to Squirrel Hill to celebrate our Christmas and Hannukah together in his community is a treasured memory. I am heartsick at the mindless violence perpetrated there, and applaud your appeal to reason, respect--indeed, to our fundamental humanity under our Lord.