Pittsburgh is not unique

Antisemitism isn’t an isolated incident, it’s just life


It never occurred to me when I was younger that not all schools had three stages of security in order to enter like my school did. It never occurred to me that not all religious buildings had a rotating security rota system and community support officers stationed outside on major festivals like my synagogue did.

Not until I got to university did I ever even think about how many extra security measures the Jewish community has to put into place in our day to day lives just to ensure our right to safety. No one ever told me it was because we were in particular danger, it was just normal.

Since I can remember I have always just known that it wouldn't be unusual for someone to dislike me or act violently towards me because I was Jewish.

I wasn't surprised when at my Jewish secondary school, a boy at my bus stop had his head stamped on by students at another school in the area because he shouted at them to stop throwing snowballs at us and yelling, "Oi Jews".

I wasn't surprised that the security guards from our school were having to accompany us to the bus stop to stop the same kids from the neighbouring school throwing stones at us.

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My school had to enforce multiple levels of security and 24-hour monitoring measures

I wasn't surprised when I was sat on the top deck of the bus and some people walked up the stairs and said "ew it smells like Jew up here", and got off the bus.

I wasn't surprised when a woman walked up to the front gates of my school whilst holding the hand of her young child yelling at the security guard that "Hitler didn't do a good enough job".

It is also why, whilst completely devastated and horrified, I wasn't surprised by the attacks in Pittsburgh.

The attack on a Jewish synagogue last week in Pittsburgh saw 11 members of the Tree of Life congregation dead at the hands of Robert Bowers. He opened fire on the community, claiming that he wanted all Jews to die. It was terrifying and awful, but also not isolated.

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It was, according to the Anti-Defamation League, the deadliest attack on a Jewish community in the history of the United States but that in no way means that it is the only incident.

In 2006, six women were shot at the Seattle Jewish Federation.

In 2009, two security guards were shot at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.

In 2014, there was a shooting in a Jewish community centre in Kansas.

In 2002, 21 people died at a suicide bombing at a synagogue in Tunisia.

In 2018, in the UK, Jewish communities all around the country had to renegotiate their relationship with the political system as the leader of the opposition continually failed to ensure that he would protect and support them.

Antisemitic attacks like the one in Pittsburgh aren't freak events. They are so commonplace that I did not even question the necessity of regular terror alarm drills in my primary school, where we were taught to hide under the desks at age five in case a gunman entered the school.

Even since getting to Cambridge there have been incidents with Neo-Nazi pamphlets being distributed on campus or students being chased out of formals claiming they felt victimised because they were Jewish.

Last night there was an amazing turnout at the vigil to mourn the Pittsburgh victims held by JSoc and Bad Jews of Cambridge. The leaders of the service read out responses from Jews all around the world, expressing anger at the continuation of anti semitism globally.

But how many times do vigils like this need to be held before the world wakes up and takes note?

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Around 70 people gathered to light candles and say memorial prayers

Former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks released a statement about the attack in Pennsylvania, saying "is a tragic reminder that, somehow, within living memory of the Holocaust, we still live in a world where antisemitism exists and deadly attacks on Jews take place."

Jews have still not recovered from the devastation of the Holocaust and yet are still having to fight antisemitism on multiple fronts. Baroness Tonge's statement about Israel being to blame for the attack, as well as the frequent outing of various politicians for antisemitic comments, shows Jews that they still cannot live in comfort and safety in the UK or around Europe.

The continual conflation of Israel with Judaism allows many to justify their antisemitic remarks, despite the fact that Israel is the only place where I do not have to second guess whether or not to reveal my religious identity to a new person. In doing so, the issues involved in the conflict are overlooked.

The liberal left's trend of bandwagoning political issues has led to them upholding one side of the conflict whilst letting attacks on organised religion slip by. As a disclaimer, I am not discounting the struggles of either side of the conflict, though I think there is a lot more nuance to the situation than people tend to realise.

So I implore you, if you must bandwagon politics, or even just give more than a cursory glance to the struggles of others, then please do it whilst allowing people to live in comfort and safety, regardless of their religious beliefs. Rather than letting them resign themselves to a life frequented by vigils.