The third annual Eradicate Hate Global Summit kicked off its programming Wednesday at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, focusing on the state of hate and the experiences of survivors and families of victims of hate crimes.
The Pittsburgh synagogue massacre of Oct. 27, 2018, loomed over the morning sessions with almost every speaker explicitly or implicitly referring to it. David Shapira, a board member of the Eradicate Hate Global Summit, opened his speech referencing the shooting before leading the audience into a moment of silence for the 11 worshippers from three congregations who were murdered that day.
“Almost five years ago, there was a terrible tragedy here in Pittsburgh at the Tree of Life synagogue,” he said. “It wasn’t the first such tragedy in the United States and certainly wasn’t the last — as we all know, there have been many more since then. Something unusual happened in Pittsburgh after the tragedy, and that is that the whole community came together to try and do something about the disaster that had happened here.”
Laura Ellsworth, co-chair of the Eradicate Hate Global Summit, came up with the idea to organize a global anti-hate conference after the 2018 shooting. Now in its third year, the conference featured speakers from across the United States and Europe.
The first session was a presentation from several speakers about the state of hate and hate-based violence around the world. Oren Segal, vice president of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, began with a record-breaking statistic: There were almost 4,000 antisemitic incidents, including harassment and vandalism, in the United States in 2022 — the highest number in more than 40 years.
The ADL also found that 62 extremist-connected mass killings have occurred since 1970, with more than half happening in the past 12 years.
At the end of the session, panelist and program analyst for the FBI Derika Sutton announced that its hate crimes statistics task force and the Uniform Crime Reporting program will launch a hate crime awareness week in 2024.
Wednesday’s second session focused on the rise of white supremacy and far-right ideologies in Central and Eastern Europe. Michal Vašečka, an associate professor at the Bratislava International School of Liberal Arts, warned of what that portends.
“Be careful because the situation in Central Europe has always been a warning sign, you know, some premonition of what will happen in other parts of Europe and the world,” he said.
The third session examined hate-fueled violence directed at LGBTQI+ communities with Sarah Moore, an analyst with the ADL Center on Extremism and GLAAD. She said that anti-LGBTQI+ hate does not exist in a vacuum, and many of the anti-LGBTQI+ incidents she’s seen have also been antisemitic or racist.
“We know that these groups are not just trying to target and harm the queer community but are actively going after these other groups as well,” she said.
While much of the day was spent examining strategies for combating hate, an afternoon session explored the intimacies and aftermath of violence.
The 10.27 Healing Partnership’s director, Maggie Feinstein, led a discussion with Jonathan Craig, Audrey Glickman, Jodi Kart, Amy Mallinger and Michele Rosenthal, with each panelist offering insight about the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting and the trial that followed 4½ years later.
Glickman, who was leading services when the 2018 attack began, described the complexities of being a witness.
She said she was instructed by the government not to talk about the case, the “bad guy” or potential punishments, lest her comments spur a mistrial.
The difficulty with that approach, she said, was that silencing her voice — and the voices of other survivors and family members — prompted others to speak.
Hearing people say the trial shouldn’t occur because “it would be too traumatizing for the victims,” or what the outcome should be, was frustrating, Glickman said.
“It would be very nice if the general public didn’t presume to speak on behalf of any victims,” she continued. “Whether right or wrong in their opinions, they are punditing.”
Kart recalled the loss of her father, Melvin Wax, and how valuable it was touring the courtroom before the trial began.
Seeing the jury box made her realize that “12 strangers were going to make this decision for us,” she said.
The trial, Rosenthal said, enabled the victims’ families to largely piece together “a puzzle.”
Rosenthal’s brothers, Cecil and David Rosenthal, were among the victims of the massacre.
While family members and victims heard more details during the trial, “we never get all the pieces,” she said. “The few pieces that are missing we still have to create in our minds.”
Mallinger, whose grandmother Rose Mallinger was murdered during the attack, said one takeaway from the trial was that despite trying to steel herself emotionally, there is “never any amount of preparation for what you are about to hear.”
Something important to remember, Mallinger continued, was “to be kind to yourself and lean on all the people around you who are going through the exact same thing.”
Craig, a Pittsburgh SWAT officer, recalled his role as a first responder on Oct. 27, 2018, and the challenge of having to provide a victim impact statement nearly 4½ years later.
Despite testifying about other cases in other courtrooms, he said he was surprised and “embarrassed” by how emotional he was during the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting trial.
Victims’ family members, jurors and other strangers later offered comfort, Craig said: “They were the kindest and most supportive people I ever met in my life.”
Before thanking the panelists for “bravely” sharing their experiences, Feinstein said she learned a lot by watching them navigate the judicial system during the trial.
“Trauma is the removal of power and agency from individuals,” the Jewish professional said. “Knowledge, truth and information are ways we can heal from trauma.”
The justice system presents certain challenges when it comes to re-traumatization, but “withholding information or delicately walking around the information can have its own damaging effect,” she added.
Following the session, Mallinger told the Chronicle about the importance of giving voice to experience.
“This is something we’ve been quiet about for so long,” she said. “It's kind of freeing and powerful to be able to use our voices in a good way.”
The summit’s co-chair Mark Nordenberg told the Chronicle that three days of panels give attendees numerous chances to learn from a diversity of voices.
Hearing those perspectives, he said, facilitates “ideas that are shared and solutions that are developed.”
Nordenberg pointed to the keynote address by Alejandro N. Mayorkas, secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, as particularly “inspiring.”
Mayorkas told attendees he privately met with several individuals intimately affected by the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting.
These people have “harnessed their grief and their hurt and channeled it into this extraordinary conference,” Mayorkas said. “In each of them, in the Pittsburgh community, and in all of you, I see, and I feel ripples of resolve and hope.”
Jeffrey Finkelstein, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, said the summit “spurs on work that happens the other 300-something days a year.”
Bringing so many experts to Pittsburgh marks the “beginning of a deeper work in collaboration that wouldn’t happen without this convening,” he added.
“People from all over the world have come to Pittsburgh to work against hate, but more importantly to honor love,” Leon Ford, a member of the summit’s Community Advisory Committee and co-founder of The Hear Foundation, said.
“Oftentimes people are discouraged and hopeless because of what they have experienced at the hands of hate — be it a bombing, a shooting, hate speech in person or online — but we’re hopeful and we are action-oriented,” Ford said.
“It’s important for us to take the energy, the information and the resources that we learn — and what’s being shared at this global summit — into our communities,” he continued. “Whether that’s Squirrel Hill, or some place in Aspen, or someplace in Kenya, or in Europe, or Asia, we can take these messages into our communities, spread love and conquer hate.” PJC
Adam Reinherz can be reached at email@example.com.
Abigail Hakas is a freelance writer living in Pittsburgh.
The Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle and the Pittsburgh Union Progress are collaborating on covering the Eradicate Hate Global Summit, which runs through Friday Downtown, and some of which is being livestreamed for free. Learn more at eradicatehatesummit.org.