For those of you who do not yet know me, my name is Julia Goldberg, I am in 11th grade, and I am Jewish. In case you have not yet heard, on Saturday morning around 10 a.m., a man walked into a building in Pittsburgh, PA with an AR 15 assault rifle and multiple handguns and opened fire. Eleven people died and six others were injured including four officers on the scene. This wasn’t just a building, though. Neither was it just a Saturday morning, nor just 11 random people. It was a synagogue, a temple, a shul, whatever you want to call it, it was a Jewish place of worship and it was on Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, the holiest day of the week on which it is traditional for Jews to attend services. All 11 people who died were Jews, who just wanted to express their beliefs, on the holy day, at their synagogue, in their community, just like thousands of other communities were doing at the exact same time, including mine.
I was at my synagogue, Temple Beth-El, in downtown Birmingham, where you can typically find me on a Saturday morning, when this happened. I did not find out until later that evening when I arrived at the Jewish Community Center for a youth group event. As I began to reflect on the events that happened that morning, I felt so lucky to be alive and to be able to express my religion freely. I was at my temple in services at that same time. I took for granted the fact that the service I was in finished in a normal fashion, while the service at Congregation Tree of Life in Pittsburgh was cut short—just like the lives of the people that perished.
The shooter reportedly stated to police officers that “All Jews need to die.” He believed that Jews were in large part at fault for illegal immigration and were transporting people across the border. He posted on his social media many anti-semitic remarks and when I went on the social media site he was using and searched his name, his profile had been removed. What remained was the thread of responses of people calling him a hero and doing the right thing and a thing that needed to be done. I am relieved to say that I had NEVER seen so much hate in one place in my life. When I went back to the site a couple of hours later, the entire site, called GAB, had been taken down.
It is important in times like this to have hope and to remember that there are positive things in the world along with the many injustices that the mass media likes to focus on. Of course, it is important to exemplify this event in an effort to fight gun violence and anti-semitism, but it is also important to not overlook the officers who risked their lives in an effort to save strangers, to not overlook the group of Muslim-Americans who launched a fundraiser and have raised over $100,000 since the shooting in order to help pay for medical bills, funeral costs, and other costs of the victims and members of the Jewish community. The man who launched the fundraiser even posted on Twitter “MUSLIMS: Let us stand with our Jewish cousins against this senseless, anti-Semitic murder.” It is important to not overlook the countless churches and other religious institutions that held interfaith memorial services across the country. It is important to not overlook the incredible support that the Jewish community has received over the past 48 hours. All of these things give me hope that although there are terrible things that happen, the sense of community care for others outweigh the hatred and bigotry that we see all too often in the media.
Lastly, I’d like to thank all of you because so many members of the Indian Springs community have reached out to me, asking if I am ok and if there is anything they can do. I am okay and am astounded by the amount of support received. That is what gives me hope that our world is going to be okay. That is my request for you. I challenge you to not only look at the injustices that occur in our world but also to look at the amazing things that humans can do when we work together as one people for one cause: peace. I challenge you not to lose hope in times like this, but to see that the strength that we hold together is strong enough to overcome racism, sexism, homophobia, and anti-semitism, we just need to be able to see past our differences and work together.