Pittsburgh Jews Praised For Faith As They Double Down On Left-Wing Activism

There’s no mention in this LA Times story about Jews adding security. All the American synagogues that have had Jews murdered inside in the past five years have had zero security outside. Perhaps these shuls ought to man up and not leave their security to God?

If these Jewish congregations are “resolute in their defiance of the hatred that tried to destroy them,” they might learn how to legally carry guns to protect themselves.

What’s the best way of honoring the Jews who were murdered? Developing security so these attacks will be less effective in the future or doubling down on the left-wing activism that triggered the attacks?

As far as waiting for justice, even if the gunman is sentenced to death, there’s no justice possible in this life.

From the Los Angeles Times:

Faith lifted Pittsburgh Jews in long wait for massacre trial

PITTSBURGH — Three Jewish congregations, resolute in their defiance of the hatred that tried to destroy them, are still waiting for justice.

…But each in their own ways, members are finding renewed purpose in honoring those lost in the attack, in the bold practice of their faith, in activism on issues like gun violence and immigration, in taking a stand against antisemitism and other forms of bigotry.

…On Sunday, the day before jury selection, the Tree of Life Congregation is having a closure ceremony for its historic building. The congregation and a partner organization plan a major overhaul of the site, which will combine worship space with a memorial and antisemitism education, including about the Holocaust.

…Dor Hadash, founded 60 years ago, is Pittsburgh’s only congregation in the progressive Reconstructionist movement of Judaism. Many members are drawn to its interlocking focuses on worship, study and social activism.

It was that activism that appears to have drawn the shooting suspect — who fulminated online against HIAS, a Jewish refugee resettlement agency — to the address where Dor Hadash met. The congregation was listed on HIAS’ website as a participant in a National Refugee Shabbat, which wove concern for migrants into Sabbath worship.

…But the attack has only emboldened Dor Hadash members.

They were soon organizing what became a separate group, Squirrel Hill Stands Against Gun Violence, advocating for gun safety legislation. And they redoubled their support for immigrants, refugees and their helpers such as HIAS. The congregation has sponsored a refugee family originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. And they have taken a strong stand against rising antisemitism and white supremacy.

“I think advocacy has been a huge part of our healing,” said Dana Kellerman, communications chair for Dor Hadash. Advocacy “isn’t just about making myself feel better,” she added. “It is about trying to move the needle so that this doesn’t happen to somebody else.”

“There are a lot of people who are seeking some way to help so that the world is a more compassionate place,” Recht said.

Compassionate for whom? Bringing in refugees is compassionate for the refugees but frequently is anti-compassionate for the Americans they hurt. You might want to watch the Boston Marathon bombing documentary on Netflix to reacquaint yourself with what refugees can do.

If this attack has only emboldened left-wing Jews in their left-wing activism, there will be more dramatic conflicts of interest in the future that tip into violence.

Rabbi Marc Katz of the Reform Temple Ner Tamid in Bloomfield, N.J. writes in the New York Times:

One reason we were so resilient after the Molotov cocktail attack is that we had a plan of action in place. In the four years since the shooting at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh, American Jewish institutions have developed rapid-response playbooks to address concrete terror threats and best practices have been shared around the country. We have invested in our security infrastructure and communicated those changes to our congregants. Over the past few years we’ve added cameras, panic buttons, shatterproof film to our windows and boulders meant to keep cars from plowing into our building. In the days after the incident in January, we knew to reassure our congregants, gather worshipers back to the synagogue quickly and reach out to local police, elected officials and interfaith partners to firm up their commitment to allyship.

…When hate feels insurmountable and unpredictable, we have to shrink the problem. Even if we are treading a shaky path, we have to search for tiny patches of firm ground.

Together with neighboring rabbis, we educated our local towns to call us when there is an antisemitic incident first, so we can strategize with them about the right response. Some of our local Christmas tree lightings now include a Jewish presence: This past year, we used the event to talk about our collective fear and the need to bring light. In April, when we realized that Passover ended over Ramadan, we broke bread with a local Turkish community. That night in our sanctuary, a mixed group of Muslims and Jews gathered around one of our Torah scrolls and discussed the many things our faiths shared.

Our wider Jewish community has also reached across religious and racial lines to work toward social justice issues like bringing rent control to neighboring Montclair, to build bonds and trust.

Our local group of rabbis has begun working with schools to evaluate their Holocaust curriculums. We’ve also spent time in some of those schools, putting a face and personal story to that history. Equally important, we have worked to allow students to understand the connection between the hatred of the Nazi era and the hatred today — not just against Jews, but against all those who have experienced bigotry.

When there are genuine conflicts of interests between groups, they’re not going to be ameliorated by anti-bigotry education. Some of the reasons that people have negative feelings about groups such as Jews, Christians, Americans, Russians, whites, blacks, gays, Muslims, etc, are not irrational. Rather, these people usually have in-group identities that contain varying degrees of hostility towards out-groups, and these feelings of hostility will wax or wane depending upon circumstances. There are rarely in-group identities that don’t contain hostility towards out-groups.

In Season 7, Episode 2 of the TV show Seinfeld, Elaine makes a big mistake:

Elaine later confides in the rabbi that she feels bitter about George getting engaged, and wishes she were getting married instead. The rabbi talks about this to several people, including Jerry and a man who Elaine was attracted to, causing her great shame…

Susan and George watch the rabbi’s TV show. The rabbi recounts the story Elaine told him, referencing both Elaine and George by name, and mentions Elaine said George once argued that visiting a prostitute while engaged does not constitute cheating. The episode ends with the engaged couple watching the show in stunned confusion and shock.

Christians take it for granted that when they confide in their clergy, it will be kept confidential. There is no such assurance in Jewish life. Rabbis will typically dispense with confidentiality if they feel it is for the good of the community. This dramatic difference in priorities can have real world repercussions that lead some people to dislike some Jews.

Rony Guldmann writes in his work Conservative Claims of Cultural Oppression: The Nature and Origins of Conservaphobia:

* Contrasting their reason to the mere faith of conservatives, liberals believe that they have achieved a new level of existential and epistemic liberation. But conservative claimants of cultural oppression insist that the lines which liberals draw here are blurrier than they are prepared to acknowledge. For what liberals interpret as their liberated condition is actually their enslavement to religious impulses that they fail to recognize as such—but which conservatives, being securely anchored tradition, possess the sagacity and historical memory to recognize. What passes for enlightenment, a stance of critical reflexivity, is merely the medium for religious impulses that, having been eviscerated of substantive ethical content by the process of secularization, must now be expressed self-deceptively.

The difference between religious traditionalism and secular liberalism is not that one is sectarian while the other is cosmopolitan, but that one freely acknowledges its sectarianism while the other conceals it, projecting that sectarianism onto its political enemies.

* Meaning is first encountered in the world, not in any disembodied interiority…

* even the ethos of disengaged self-control and self-reflexivity constitutes a form of engagement. For its actual contours are always precipitated and structured by shifts transpiring on the pre-reflective level of experience, whose reality will either slip or be accentuated in reflection of both chance and social conditions. The disengaged reflexivity of the strategic agent may produce the sensation that the self resides somewhere inside one’s skin. But that sensation presupposes as its unspoken backdrop a particular way of being outside one’s skin.

* Social meanings can constrain us because they are the grounds of our identities. To preserve identity is to contain freedom—to limit the range of life possibilities that one can seriously contemplate. For this narrowness is the sine qua non of taking oneself seriously, and what social meanings allow us to maintain. A field of social meanings not only confronts us as a force to be reckoned with, but moreover permeates us as the unspoken substratum of our very agency.

* Hero-systems are not idle “symbolic” luxuries, intangible “cultural” concerns, but rather a biological necessity.

* As emphatic as some conservatives may be in their warnings that same-sex marriage threatens the basic institution of marriage, they have always been at a loss to explain how precisely this should be. How could the presence of the same-sex couple next door possibly impinge on the stability of one’s own marriage? So the liberal reflex has always been to dismiss the conservative view as just thinly disguised mean-spiritedness, or else as the symptom of some unacknowledged fear or anxiety that is being “taken out” on those who have nothing to do with the conservative’s real problems, which are being disguised in ostensible worries about the preservation of the traditional family. This, after all, is one of the reasons why the benighted must “grow” and become “aware.” But many on the Left have in more sophisticated terms acknowledged that the destruction of the family is precisely their aim, and that same sex-marriage will, beyond extending legal rights to gay and lesbian couples, be tactically useful to this end. Lesbian activist Masha Gessen told a sympathetic audience: “Gay marriage is a lie. Fighting for gay marriage generally involves lying about what we’re going to do with marriage when we get there. It’s a no-brainer that the institution of marriage should not exist. … ‘Marriage equality’ becomes ‘marriage elasticity,’ with the ultimate goal of ‘marriage extinction.’”
She explained that “I have three kids who have five parents, more or less, and I don’t see why they shouldn’t have five parents legally… I met my new partner, and she had just had a baby, and that baby’s biological father is my brother, and my daughter’s biological father is a man who lives in Russia, and my adopted son also considers him his father. So the five parents break down into two groups of three… And really, I would like to live in a legal system that is capable of reflecting that reality, and I don’t think that’s compatible with the institution of marriage.”
If “marriage elasticity” has “marriage extinction” as its ultimate aim, the reason is not that the traditional 1950s-style nuclear family would become somehow criminalized, but that such elasticity would erode the hero-system that has historically underpinned that family, depriving that institution of its traditional social meaning. The “family” being targeted by the “homosexual agenda” is not the bare practices of cohabitation, financial interdependence, and child rearing by legally bound adults, but the hero-system of social conservatives, that thick structure of aspirational roles invoked by talk of traditional family values. And this is exactly what conservatives are referring to in warning that the family is under attack.
The institution of same-sex marriage can carry implications for heterosexual couples insofar as “traditional marriage” thereby becomes but one possible interpretation of a civil institution, rather than its intrinsic and uncontested meaning. It constitutes, not merely an expansion of rights, but also the regulation of social meaning, because it can upset the social plausibility, and therefore the personal resonance, of the traditional interpretation notwithstanding that no one is being physically disabled in their marital activities. To the extent marriage becomes socially understood as just another agreement rather than a sacrament, its value will have to be viewed as residing in individual sentiments rather than in a transcendent dispensation that ratifies these sentiments. Traditionalists are thereby threatened with a different interpretation of themselves, confronted with the possibility that the sacredness which they had imputed to their practices is but the reification of their own idiosyncratic emotions. Nothing prevents them from asserting that whatever the legal status of same-sex marriage may be, it is only marriages like their own that truly count in the eyes of God. But given 1) that this interpretation is now contested and 2) that social meanings are “forces to be reckoned with,” the meaning with which traditionalists would like to imbue their marriages will not necessarily be the meaning that their marriages actually end up carrying for them. Conservatives worries about liberals’ “attack on the family” are therefore more sophisticated than liberals are prepared to acknowledge.

* In “relativizing” the epistemically objective into the ontologically subjective, they hope to dissolve the power of heretofore taken-for-granted social meanings by highlighting their contingent origins in the coordinated meaning-generating activities of human beings—the recognition of which will compel people to then take these meanings less “seriously.”

* That outraged incredulity expresses, not mere moral disagreement, but the ethos of disengaged self-control and self-reflexivity and the condemnation of those who have failed to realize it. It is intended to signal, not simply a different vision of the good, but the naturalistic lucidity of the disengaged subject, who is not “taken in” by the visceral, pre-reflective social meanings that beguile conservatives.

* The subtext of liberals’ outrage is that we can subtract the pre-modern layer of human experience and that conservatives are guilty of having failed to do so. But this subtraction is impossible, as we saw, merely a cultural fiction. And this is why conservatives’ “vague premonitions of erosion or unraveling” refer to the erosion and unraveling of something real, something on which human beings are genuinely dependent, which they do really encounter as an independent object—forces “to be reckoned with.” Yet this is exactly what liberals’ outraged incredulity is intended to deny. The purpose of this denial is not simply to condemn conservatives morally, but to impugn their basic competence as human agents, to highlight their failure to realize their human essence as strategic agents liberated from the confining horizons of a benighted past.

* Where the benighted traditionalist speaks of some ethereal “social fiber,” the post-modern sophisticate speaks of “social constructions.” But the underlying referent is the same, a hero-system, the socially sustained meanings that fortify individuals in their identities. This is what conservatives defend and what liberals attack.

* Following Martha Nussbaum, liberals will dismiss opposition to same-sex marriage as a symptom “narcissistic fear and aggression” awoken by “anxiety about change that eludes control, and the loss of control over cherished values.”113 But they can, upon adopting a suitably sophisticated sociological stance, recognize that this kind of narcissistic fear and aggression is not a weakness unique to social conservatives. On the contrary, it is a human constant that can work itself out in a great many ways, either crudely or subtly, and with or without any overtly religious or moralistic trappings. And yet what liberals can recognize in theoretical contexts is quickly forgotten in more heated political ones, where conservatives are judged according ideals of strategic agency that no one would be prepared to apply consistently. Conservatives’ visceral conviction that the liberal culture is holding them down through oppressive dualisms and double-standards originates in just this disingenuousness. This is why they urge us to recognize the human constants that would undermine the dualisms that this disingenuousness has facilitated, to recognize the symmetries that go unacknowledged by the liberal culture.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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