By Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi
Co-founder of the Mizrahi Family Charitable Trust
Like the horrific Mathew Shepard murder and two African Americans killed at a Kroger this weekend, what happened in Pittsburgh was a hate crime.
The 11 people killed in Pittsburgh – including a 97-year-old Holocaust survivor and two people with developmental disabilities – were all victims in a long line of intentional anti-Semitic acts. Indeed, just recently swastikas were painted on the Jewish Community Center in Northern Virginia.
I have a great, and in many ways very privileged, life. And yet anti-Semitism has been a part of my life as well. Half of my roots are from the ashes of my families’ horrific demise by the Nazis. My father came to this country with nothing. I am deeply grateful that the gates were open for him, his parents and my great aunt to escape the Nazis and come into this wonderful nation. And yet I know that America almost did not take them, and that other members of my family were rejected. A cousin and his wife made it to Australia, and another made it to South Africa — but most of them were killed.
I remember both the racism and anti-Semitism that my parents and others fought in NC when I was little. When I was in middle school, one of my classmates sprayed bug spray inside my locker to get rid of the “Jewish infestation.” Our family could not join certain clubs because of our faith.
When I lived in Annapolis someone put 20 pages of anti-Semitic material on our front steps. The police found out who did it. They told me not to worry — it was just some old man. They refused to prosecute, saying he was practicing free speech. Later that “old man” went to the US Holocaust museum and killed a guard there as an act of anti-Semitism.
In the US there has been an extraordinary uptick in anti-Semitism recently. There is simply too much “othering” of groups of people overall. In Israel and Europe there are anti-Semitic attacks on a regular basis as well.
This is a long way to say to my friends – mourn for the victims. Do the work that all of us must do to ensure that NO GROUP, not even one person from any group, is the victim of a hate crime again.
We must unify and stand up against hatred of all kinds. Tonight at 6:30 PM there is an interfaith gathering at Adas Israel Congregation. Tomorrow night there is one at 7:30 PM at Rodef Shalom in NoVA. The public is encouraged to attend both of them.
Elections are around the corner. Ask the candidates on all sides:
“WHAT ARE YOU SPECIFICALLY GOING TO DO TO END THE HATE OF SO MANY MARGINALIZED PEOPLE?”
Then vote. But don’t let it end at voting. We can’t simply outsource our values to elected officials.
It’s up to all of us to promote and live the values of acceptance, progress and love.