Most families of Pittsburgh synagogue victims support the death penalty for the shooter
As the Chronicle has reported in numerous articles, the U.S. Department of Justice has decided to seek the death penalty in the case against the mass murderer who perpetrated the Pittsburgh synagogue attack on Oct. 27, 2018. Some recent opinion pieces in our local newspapers have expressed the writer’s position in favor of accepting a guilty plea from the defendant to the charges against him in exchange for a sentence of life in prison without parole. This plea would eliminate the need for a trial which the writer feels will cause further harm to the victims’ families and the community as a whole.
These views do not represent the vast majority of the victims’ families; they are, in fact, contrary to our views. The opinion the writer has stated is their opinion and theirs alone. Please don’t tell us how we should feel, what is best for us, what will comfort us and what will bring closure for the victims’ families. You can not and will not speak for us.
The massacre of our loved ones was a clear violation of American law — mass murder of Jews for simply being Jewish and practicing Judaism, driven by sheer antisemitism — which the law rightfully deems is a capital offense. That part is indisputable.
As families of the massacred in this case, we had a choice to make in supporting or opposing pursuit of the death penalty for the monster who committed the mass murder of our loved ones. We are well aware of the risks that come from it, which include the public rehashing of the specifics of the massacre, years of appeals and the possibility that the court may not return a verdict delivering the death penalty.
Allowing the defendant to plead out will rob us of our “day in court” and will prevent the Justice Department from punishing the perpetrator to the full extent of the law, as we have sought for the past four-plus years. We are not a ruthless, uncompassionate people; we, as a persecuted people, understand when there is a time for compassion and when there is a time to stand up and say enough is enough — such violent hatred will not be tolerated on this earth. Our beloved 11 were taken from us in a brutal, cold-blooded act of hatred and violence. We, the undersigned, will feel further violated by letting the defendant have the easy way out. His crimes deserve the death penalty.
The family of Bernice and Sylvan Simon
The family of Cecil and David Rosenthal
The family of Rose Mallinger
The family of Joyce Fienberg
The family of Richard Gottfried
The family of Daniel Stein
The family of Melvin Wax
Chronicle criticized for “attack” on Summer Lee
Tell me you’re making an endorsement without telling me you’re making an endorsement. That’s exactly what the Chronicle did on Election Day, Nov. 8. Four articles appearing in the Chronicle’s emailed newsletter casting aspersions and raising doubts about Summer Lee’s candidacy left little or no doubt: The Chronicle was out to get Ms. Lee.
The editors of the Chronicle are certainly within their rights to publish an endorsement. A few hundred words from the editors criticizing Ms. Lee, or supporting her opponent, would be entirely appropriate, even if (to many of us) thoroughly disagreeable. However, pushing these views through supposed “news” articles shatters journalistic boundaries. Any one of these articles on its own would have been problematic. Four together is nothing less than an attack.
In reading the body of the lead article (“Event in support of Summer Lee leaves some questions unanswered”) it is clear that the Chronicle could find no evidence of any anti-Israel sentiment on the part of Ms. Lee. However, the framing of the article implies that this information must exist, if only they could find it. This is not reporting — it is fear-mongering.
The Chronicle’s reporting was accurate in one important sense. It is true that “the candidate’s views on issues related to Israel were not addressed.” This is quite true, and by design. Those of us who proudly stood with signs declaring the support of Jews for Summer Lee know that our congressional representative must represent Pittsburgh’s needs and concerns on a wide variety of issues, from health care to housing, the environment, education and many others. We also know that members of Congress have minimal influence over foreign policy. Finally, we know that our interests are not served by reducing the Jewish community as a monolith that views every political question through the lens of impact on Israel.
Summer Lee is a dedicated member of the community, a powerful activist and a capable voice working tirelessly for the benefit of her district — including parts of Squirrel Hill — and our region. The Chronicle’s ham-handed attempts to smear her campaign reflect poorly on our community.
PA-12 contest pit J Street against AIPAC
“Extremism” is in the eye of the beholder. Those 240 Jews who signed an open letter condemning AIPAC/UPD for opposing Summer Lee’s congressional candidacy can’t see that in her. Yet her record says otherwise. She has advocated for lax criminal treatment, an invisible U.S. border, Supreme Court packing and other radical measures. As a democratic socialist, she has drawn hearty leftist support. Her overt anti-Israel antagonism, moreover, will make her an ideal addition to a growing congressional “Squad.” That fully explains AIPAC’s concerns. Unfortunately, though a well-warranted effort, it was unsuccessful in opposing her candidacy. This current dustup between J Street and AIPAC supporters, however, is about far more than one congressional contest. It’s really about the radicalization of the Democratic Party, ongoing American public support for Israel and, ultimately, American Jewry’s future. Jews have been among the most stalwart Democrat voters, but the party has been rapidly abandoning them. That can only ultimately undermine broader public support for Israel. Lee could have allayed such concerns, but chose not to engage with the Chronicle. “Equity” is about destructive group proportionality apportioning of society’s wealth and opportunities. Jews, about 2% of the American population, can thrive only when there is equality of opportunity, where all are free to pursue their skills and interests, unimpeded. There thus looms a fateful choice for “progressive” Jews between those two parts of their identity.
Richard D. Wilkins
Syracuse, New York
Op-ed about electing right-wing Israeli government shows lack of understanding
Your recent guest editorial by Sara Yoheved Rigler on why Israelis are voting in large numbers for right-wing governance (“Why Israelis like me voted in a right-wing government,” Nov. 11) made some valid points but showed in some cases an amazing shallowness of emotional understanding.
She wrote that in 1985 she could not comprehend why the mother of a Hamas member and accused terrorist was wailing and grieving over the possibility that she might never see her son again. Was she incapable of understanding the simple, profound pain a mother might feel at losing a child, irrespective of that child’s behavior? Her son may very well have been guilty of horrendous crimes, as indeed Hamas is generally. But dehumanization and demonization of “the other side” has historically been a step toward even more tragedy.
The accelerating Israeli political drift rightward is not hard to understand. We all know the modern proverb that a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged. But his assumed antisemitism notwithstanding, Nietzsche had it right when he observed, “If you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back at you.”
Perhaps the hardest task of all is not hating. The Dalai Lama once met with a Tibetan monk who had escaped from prison in Chinese-occupied Tibet. The monk related how horrible his prison experience had been, but said that the worst moment of all was when he almost lost his compassion for the Chinese.
‘Appalled’ and ‘offended’ by letter to the editor
I was appalled and offended by last week’s letter to the editor, “‘Horrified’ and ‘ashamed’ of Jews voting Republican.”
The author unabashedly asserts that, by voting Republican, one unequivocally places oneself on the wrong side of justice. Somehow it is not Jewish to vote Republican.
In the campaign for the 12th Congressional District, the letter’s author was outraged that “Mike Doyle” didn’t put “Republican” on his campaign literature ostensibly to hide that he is an “extremist imposter.” Who is the extremist? Perchance it’s the one who is pushing the toxic notion that a vote for a Republican is inherently, unquestionably and irrefutably a vote against truth, justice and the Jewish way. The inclination of the Democratic Party toward the extreme left is sufficient reason to consider the merits of every Republican. There are elements in both parties that are quite noxious. Neither party has a monopoly on depravity. I, personally, am an independent.
Perhaps the Republicans are not all evil. Maybe it’s worth examining each one on his/her merits, especially when, as was the case in the 12th Congressional District, the alternative (and winner) is a woke progressive who will happily join the congressional Squad — a faction that has shown itself to be virulently anti-Israel and has promoted domestic policies which, even if unintended, have helped to generate high levels of antisemitism in many segments of American society.
We could all learn from our forefather Abraham, who in last week’s Torah parshah, Vayera, pleaded with G-d to spare the city of Sodom for the sake of the righteous who might live there. In a similar manner, perhaps we could find 10 worthy Republicans in the entire party. If not 10, maybe nine, or even eight, so that we need not summarily dismiss any thought of voting Republican. Conceivably, the elections in which we which we vote include such Republicans — those who support values of a liberal democracy — as opposed to Democrats who foster a neo-Marxist, woke ideology.
Letters to the editor should not spread hate
During this election season the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle published many letters and columns advocating for or critical of various candidates and their positions. Some of the letters to the editor have gone beyond presenting different views on issues and candidates. These letters have, by the words of the writer, shamed, blamed and vilified fellow Jews who are from a different political party or hold a different view. Some of these letters are hateful. This seems contrary to the banner on the front page of the Chronicle “Connecting Jewish Pittsburgh” and is an open rebuke that is not really in line with Torah and Jewish values. We have seen the corrosive impact of divisive social media that has led to a significant polarization of our country leading to gridlock by our government and too much anger. The concern for policing social media is rising. Letters to the editor are a great feature of the Chronicle. Perhaps as social media needs policing, the staff that reviews the letters to the editor should consider doing the same. Angry rant-and-rave letters that steer away from issues and attack groups of individuals are divisive and may even be hateful, and should be left unpublished. As we remember the fourth yahrzeit of the Tree of Life martyrs, we need less hate and need to find a way back to civil dialogue with those whom we have different views.