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(Photo from Flash90)
(Photo from Flash90)

Antisemitism given short shrift at summit
“Universalism,” Cynthia Ozick noted, “is the Jews’ particularism.” Such was abundantly evident at the recent Eradicate Hate Global Summit. All racial, religious and ethnic hatreds are to be deplored, and, indeed, the conference “highlighted the diversity of victims.” Despite Tree of Life remembrance infusing the proceedings, however, short shrift was given to dramatically rising antisemitism, permeating social media, in the streets or on campus. There was one, peripherally related, panel: a Holocaust “conversation.” How evocative of Dara Horn’s new book title: “People Love Dead Jews.” Live ones, not so much.

Quite disturbing was the singularly inappropriate prominent panelist presence of such as Salam Al-Marayat, of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), who has defended Hamas and Hezbollah, Maya Berry, of the Arab American Institute (AAI), who has charged that Jews use antisemitism to silence criticism of Israel, and Shirin Sinnar, who rewteeted the view that Hamas is the “Palestine Resistance.”

The American Muslim community lacks not for voices, but for platforms, in its struggle against radicalism and hatred of others. Why aren’t those, like Zuhdi Jasser, of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD), ever heard?

Richard D. Wilkins
Syracuse, New York

Dealing with grief through acts of kindness
The Tree of Life shooting has had lasting effects on me and probably will for years to come. As a secondary trauma survivor, I have found ways of dealing with my deep grief through acts of kindness as well as through music.

To me, the way to combat hate is through kindness and love. As a caring person, I have cooked meals for several friends and neighbors. I have also visited families of the victims, sometimes with food, but more importantly, as a patient listener.
I also continue to engage in Torah studies, both online in New York City and in person. In this way, I carry on my rabbinic lineage and honor the memories of the 11.

In addition, I have been composing a musical piece for nearly one-and-a-half years. Doing so is more difficult than I had imagined, and I continue to revise it. Perhaps it will be finished by Oct. 27, 2022.

Elie Wiesel’s quote, “Human suffering anywhere concerns men and women everywhere,” is a meaningful one to me. Ever since meeting him in person at a Jewish choral festival, I’m constantly reminded of its importance. If I can alleviate someone’s suffering, even for a short time, perhaps that is another way to combat hateful actions.

May the memories of the 11 victims be for many blessings.

Arlene Wolk
Squirrel Hill

Getting the story right
I have some thoughts to share about Mark Oppenheimer’s new book, “Squirrel Hill: The Tree of Life Synagogue Shooting and the Soul of a Neighborhood” — particularly about how we tell stories and who gets to tell them.

For many years, I have been a practitioner of Playback Theatre, which is improvisational storytelling where actors listen to stories then reflect them back to the teller. At the end of each story and “play back,” the leader asks the one who shared the story if the actors got it “right.” Getting it right doesn’t mean it’s perfect; it means we have captured the story’s essence. It means the storyteller feels seen and heard. We who choose to tell the stories of others have a responsibility to get it right.

The same should go for journalism and narrative writing — you will know if you’ve done a good job if the people who trusted you to get their stories right can say, “Yes, I see myself in that, I feel heard.”

While reading Oppenheimer’s book, I have struggled with the response from many in our community that he got details wrong and that they felt misrepresented. While being interviewed by the author, I believed it to be his intention to get our stories right. But I am troubled there are those directly linked to the events of Oct. 27 who are feeling further hurt by their portrayal in the book, and that this book has deepened their pain.

In some Jewish spiritual practices, we focus on deep listening. At the end of telling their story, the speaker says “dibarti” (I have spoken) and the listener says “shemati” (I have heard). In essence, we are saying that I have shared my humanity with you and you have honored me by listening and seeing me as I truly am. Jewish storytellers of all kinds must operate in ways that reflect these values. Writers must be accountable to both their subjects and their readers, and make sure they accurately portray personal stories — especially when they involve trauma.

The stories of Oct. 27 are our personal histories and will become a part of the broader history of the rising tide of white nationalism — and antisemitism in particular — which made our neighborhood the target of the deadliest antisemitic act our country has ever known. How we tell that story matters not only for us, but for generations to come.

There are many things Oppenheimer gets right about our ties to one another, the many heroic acts that day and the acts of chesed (lovingkindness). There are also many other outlets in which these stories are already being told, including oral storytelling projects and books by local authors, honoring the lives that were lost and preserving their memories.

We are not required to do the work, but neither are we free to desist from it” (Pirkei Avot). In other words, our work continues to be “getting it right” so we can both heal and act in ways that cement our history as a Jewish community who used our “never again” moment to create lasting change for the future.

Sara Stock Mayo
Squirrel Hill

Praise for Chronicle reporting
Thank you for your informative and interesting article about the Oct. 27 shooting at Tree of Life (“Eyewitnesses testify that Oct. 27 shooter made antisemitic statements,” Oct. 22, 2021).

The article was informative, objective, and contained quotes from actual sources, not anonymous ones. This is the way reporting should be and, frankly used to be, in the good old days before every article had a slant.

Keep up the good work.

Georgia Atkin
O’Hara Township

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