As I sat quietly last Sunday evening during the Tree of Life memorial ceremony at Congregation Beth Israel, the only synagogue in the City of Charlottesville, my mind was flooded with images of so many incidents that preceded what occurred in Pittsburgh last week. All mass shootings — Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Las Vegas, Parkland, and more — are terrible tragedies, but too many of the most recent shootings, such as the Pulse nightclub attack in Orlando, the massacre of a prayer group at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, the deliberate shooting of two African-Americans shopping for groceries in Kentucky last week, and the assault on Jewish worshipers in the Tree of Life synagogue, are distinguished by one additional factor. The people killed and injured in these events were targeted because of their religion, race, or sexual orientation.
The rise in hate-related attacks in America is deeply troubling. For example, the Anti-Defamation League reported a 57% increase in anti-Semitic incidents in 2017 over 2016, the largest spike in more than 50 years. This sends shivers down the spines of those of us who witnessed neo-Nazis in Charlottesville in 2017 chanting “Jews will not replace us.” The Southern Poverty Law Center reports a 22% increase in neo-Nazi groups in 2017. Hate seems to be on the rise in America, emboldened by xenophobic rhetoric coming from Washington, DC, and endorsed by conspiracy theorists of the internet. [Read more…]