The shooting in Pittsburgh

I’ve been asked by several people why I haven’t responded to the horrible news of 11 people shot to death in a synagogue in Pittsburgh. It happened on Squirrel Hill, a Jewish area of the city in which, it so happens, most of my relatives used to live. I’m not sure whether any of them went to that schul.

I haven’t responded simply because I have nothing to say about this kind of thing that I haven’t said before. I mourn the loss of those 11 people, and can only imagine the grief of their friends, families and loved ones. Anti-Semitism is on the rise (the killer apparently hated Jews), the gun culture is horrible, and Americans seem unwilling to do anything about it.

But I’ve said all this before. I don’t want to start affixing blame on anyone, as the whole thing is complex and I’m simply too sad and just want the killing and the demonization of others to stop.

I’ll let other folks do the analyses in other venues.


  1. GBJames
    Posted October 28, 2018 at 1:54 pm | Permalink


  2. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted October 28, 2018 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    Well put.

  3. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 28, 2018 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    I dated a girl from Squirrel Hill in college, my first stint as a shaygetz. Hope to no-Christ she and her family are ok.

  4. Posted October 28, 2018 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    Such a shocking and sickening event. I don’t know what to say either.

  5. Jeff Morgan
    Posted October 28, 2018 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    I really do not understand the idea of “hating jews”. Or Arabs. Or any other groups. I despise quite a few people (I am after all 64) such as your “President” and our Boris Johnson but not groups.

    And while I am on, may I stake a claim for slightly misinterpreting Lincoln and say that the USA is now “Government of the People, by some People, for some People”.

    A non-sequitur I know but I wanted it in writing, on a US site, before someone else gets it.


    • Posted October 28, 2018 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

      The US has always been like that, as has every other country since farming began.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted October 28, 2018 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

        I think the archaeology is with you on that. Giving up hunter-gathering for harder work and a poorer diet as a farmer was a pretty bad deal. But of course, once you had too many mouth to feed, you couldn’t cull any of them and … seven and a half billion later, here we are.

    • Mike Cracraft
      Posted October 28, 2018 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

      The hatred of Jews is a pestilence that goes all the way back to the consolidation of Christianity in the 2nd century. That’s where it started and through all of the centuries of pogroms and massacres up to and beyond the holocaust it persists from crime to crime.

    • Posted October 29, 2018 at 5:38 am | Permalink

      “I’m not racist, I hate everyone equally!”


    • David Coxill
      Posted October 29, 2018 at 10:41 am | Permalink

      May i salute you in despising bloody stupid johnson ,i scoop things out of my cats litter tray that would make a better MP .
      I think he might resign before the next GE ,he can’t risk the good people of Uxbridge giving him the boot after the Heathrow business .

  6. Historian
    Posted October 28, 2018 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    The Anti-Defamation League reports this:

    Continuing what began during the 2016 presidential election, the members of far-right extremist groups and the so-called “Alt Right” have stepped up “online propaganda offensives” in the runup to the upcoming midterm elections to attack and try to intimidate Jews and especially Jewish journalists, according to a new Anti-Defamation League study, which said social media platforms are “key facilitators of this anti-Semitic harassment.”

    “The themes of this online harassment against the Jewish American community, especially against journalists and prominent members of this group, have been carried from the 2016 presidential election to the 2018 midterm content,” said the study by Oxford scholar and ADL Belfer Fellow Samuel Woolley.

    One can argue about how much of this hate can be attributed to Trump and his rhetoric. But, beyond a doubt, the far right perceives Trump as their friend and, accordingly, they are emboldened to spread their message on social media, which, in turn, inspires the most aggrieved to turn to violence. This condition, along with the far right’s fear of social and demographic change, has created a toxic brew where we can expect more actions by people like Sayoc and Bowers. Obama scared the far right; Trump gives them hope. This situation, fear of change, is not limited to the United States. We have seen its manifestation in Europe, and Brazil may be electing a president who makes Trump look like a liberal. Social change creates social turmoil. The particularly dangerous times we live in raises the question of whether the United States will remain a democratic republic.

    • Posted October 28, 2018 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

      Bowers is no fan of Trump. He thinks Trump is in the clutches of the Jewish conspiracy, probably because of his son-in-law.

      • GBJames
        Posted October 28, 2018 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

        There’s always someone even further over on the fringe.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted October 28, 2018 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

          someone even further over on the fringe.

          To misquote some 1970s schmaltzy track, “What we need is a great big barber’s chop …”

    • mfdempsey1946
      Posted October 28, 2018 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

      I’ve been in Brazil for about three years and would say that Jair Bolsonaro, who has now become Brazil’s next president (according to an announcement from a Brazilian newspaper that literally popped onto my screen while I was typing these words, is far from making Trump look like a liberal.

      He is in fact “the Trump of the Tropics”. His rhetoric, with its steady expressions of hatred for numerous social groups (including gays, blacks, and women), and its encouragement of violence against classes of people he despises, almost exactly parallels the spewings of the Trump creature.

      The only thing Bolsonaro lacks is what I have told some Brazilians their current and astoundingly unpopular current but un-elected president, Michel Temer lacks: atomic weapons.

      Like the Trump creature, Bolsonaro has, in my opinion, shown himself to be (in this case I will not quibble over precise definitions) a fascist. Both of these creatures likely harbor intense fantasies of becoming dictators, a state of affairs with which Brazil, unlike the US, has had recent and dire experience, however much some here idealize the country’s former military tyrants.

      Yet I am glad to be in Brazil. It has been a welcoming, warming land for me as I strive to continue this sometimes difficult but always appealing late-in-life adventure of mine. Adventure not in the sense of flying into space, landing on the moon, climbing Mount Everest, or fighting in a war. Rather, my first adventure of doing ordinary things within a different country, culture, and language.

      But I also feel sad and worried about what may be coming for this “nacao marivilhosa”, which, like the former USA, has (not for exactly the same reasons) fallen into the hands of a leader who can accurately be described as evil.

      • mordacious1
        Posted October 28, 2018 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

        The people may be feeling hopeless, with the violent crime rates and murder rates going through the roof there. The last government was not able to control it much. You may find Brazil warm and welcoming, but crime and corruption are making many Brazilians live in fear.

        • mfdempsey1946
          Posted October 28, 2018 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

          Yes, I do find Brazil warm and welcoming. It has certainly been that way for me.

          This does not mean, as you seem to be to implying, that I am blissfully unaware of Brazil’s urban violence. There cannot be many residents of Rio de Janeiro, including me, who do not know full well that the violence that sometimes breaks out here can strike down anyone at any moment. The same surely applies to other cities I have not visited.

          Some of this violence is the work of drug gangs in favelas; one looms above where I live. Quite a lot of it is the work of rogue cops, who already get away with plenty of murder quite literally. One woman I know has told me that she fears the police much more than she does the criminals.

          An estimated 25% of Rio’s population of over six million lives in favelas, which are found in all major Brazilian cities. Eradicating this blight as well as helping present and future residents to escape the poverty and the violence that have horribly damaged their lives for generations would be the work of one more generation at least, maybe two, even if such a project were to begin tomorrow with full sincerity, competence, dedication, and money and without corruption.

          Instead of such action, however difficult it would be to undertake, Bolsonaro’s pandering, quick-fix solution to Brazil’s crime rate is for the police, including the already trigger-happy ones, to kill, kill, kill even more — as in the old adage “Shoot first and ask questions later”, except without asking questions at all. Oh, and let’s get even more guns into the hands of regular citizens so that they, too, can join the action.

          The trouble is: Brazil is no Dodge City, either any film version or the actual gunslinger town of the Wild West.

          Instead of Brazil as some kind of New Disneyland, such a childish approach to a deeply embedded social disorder is far more likely to turn Brazil’s cities into battlegrounds in medieval English philosopher Thomas Browne’s “war of all against all.”

          To believe that Jair Bolsonaro is a friend of struggling, fearful Brazilians, any more than the Trump creature is of their counterparts in the ex-USA, is to be tragically or stupidly deluded, whatever the legitimate causes of these states of mind.

          • mordacious1
            Posted October 28, 2018 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

            That may be true, and most certainly is, but the people elected this guy for a reason (assuming he was legitimately elected). They saw the situation getting worse and the politicians were being ineffective. Populists, including Trump, get elected, generally, because the mainstream politicians either can’t or won’t solve the issues that are important to a large portion of the populace. They promise answers and solutions. Many people are willing to accept a guy like this, perhaps only temporarily, to get results that heretofore, were not obtainable. It’s like buying a lottery ticket, for a short period you have hope.

            • Historian
              Posted October 28, 2018 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

              In some situations, politicians can’t or shouldn’t solve the so-called problems of an aggrieved group. Thus, in the USA, the aggrieved white majority wants politicians to roll back the inexorable wave of social and demographic change. They turn to people like Trump for salvation, although he cannot keep his implicit promise of keeping the country dominated by white Christians. Out of desperation they fall for the authoritarian appeal and, for them, democracy can disappear because it no longer serves their needs. In my reading of history, social and cultural change rather than economic events accounts for the majority or near majority of incidents of social turmoil and disintegration. Unless people are worried where their next meals are coming from, maintaining social status is more important than fluctuations in their bank accounts.

              • Davide Spinello
                Posted October 29, 2018 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

                Thus, in the USA, the aggrieved white majority wants politicians to roll back the inexorable wave of social and demographic change. They turn to people like Trump for salvation, although he cannot keep his implicit promise of keeping the country dominated by white Christians. Out of desperation they fall for the authoritarian appeal and, for them, democracy can disappear because it no longer serves their needs.

                Besides the insulting substance of statements like this (that I notice you never qualify as opinion) do you think that your illuminated reading applies to the 63 millions that voted for Trump?

              • Posted November 10, 2018 at 6:01 am | Permalink

                I don’t think Brazilians and white Americans are imagining problems where none exist.

            • Saul Sorrell-Till
              Posted October 29, 2018 at 6:15 am | Permalink

              This is the rancid apologetics that tried to make out that all Trump voters were poor whites, surrounded on all sides by immigrants and drug gangs and simply desperate for economic opportunity. And that therefore their votes were somehow not only understandable but actually inevitable. The fact that Trump voters were on average wealthier than HRC voters never quite seems to come up, nor does the overwhelming element of simple spite that motivated so many of them, the desire to ‘pwn libs’.

              Bolsonaro is something close to a psychopath, a disgusting man, and the idea that people vote for him because they’re poor and vulnerable and desirous of security makes no sense given he is violently anti-poor and utterly dismissive of social safety nets and workers’ rights. Inevitably, and exactly as with Trump, he polls best with rich, white voters.

              I’m utterly sick of people papering over far-right dictators-in-the-making with these pathetic sham arguments about how ‘the people’ just need more security, and liberal democratic candidates, ie. the politicians who have overseen the extraordinary downtick in violence and crime over the last few centuries, just aren’t cut out for it.

              Apparently Brazilians need someone who thinks “Pinochet should have killed more people”, because that always ends up well. For anyone who thinks this man is defensible, on any level, or that voting him in is somehow inevitable and that voters therefore can’t be blamed, have at this darling little quote:

              “There is no doubt. I would launch a coup on the same day. [Congress] doesn’t work and I’m sure that at least 90% of the population would applaud. Congress nowadays does nothing; it votes only for what the president wants. If he’s who rules, who decides and who gloats above the Congress, then let the coup be launched, let it be a dictatorship.”

              • Dick Veldkamp
                Posted October 29, 2018 at 6:48 am | Permalink

                It may be that Bolsonaro polls better among affluent whites, but it seems to me that that does not explain his victory: many poor people must have voted for him too, in the hope of improvement over old politics (a total fantasy if you ask me, but this is what I saw in TV interviews with Bolsonaro’s supporters).

                So I think Mordacious1 and Historian are right on this one, at least to some extent.

              • Saul Sorrell-Till
                Posted October 29, 2018 at 9:19 am | Permalink

                I’m not disputing that the poor voted for him. A lot of Brazil is poor, and he was voted in by a hefy majority. But the idea that the people who voted for him generally did so because they were disenfranchised and vulnerable and he offered them a solution to that seems like nonsense to me. He’s repeatedly lashed out at the poor and made a habit of dismissing social safety nets and the rights of the poorest workers. Every minority in Brazil has been bashed in the most repellent, grotesque ways and he’s repeatedly spoken about how they must learn to bow down to the majority.

                It’s a slippery slope to start using specious generalisations about his supporters’ motivations that imply that their votes were desperate gambles by people at the end of their tether. I don’t doubt that there were people who voted for him out of a frustration at the corruption of the previous president, and at the general levels of crime in Brazil.

                But the whitewashing of people who vote for authoritarian psychopaths is a ubiquitous tactic by apologists. People said the same thing about Hitler’s supporters, Mussolini’s supporters. They were at the ‘end of their tether’, poor, defenceless types who couldn’t help themselves.

                But people also vote for dictatorial types because they appeal to the absolute worst human instincts that are latent in all of us: the lust for vengeance, the belief that violence gets results, the hatred of outsiders, of non-members of the tribe. The evolutionary ‘yuk factor’ that means so many people are disgusted by homosexuality even though it’s a harmless, personal issue. This man plays on every single prejudice that exists. We can pretend that people are all decent, and instinctively turn away from that kind of thing, but it’s just not true, and these relentless depictions of Bolsonaro/Trump/etc. voters as helpless and wide-eyed, and their votes as excusable, even inevitable, are disturbing to me.

              • mordacious1
                Posted October 29, 2018 at 10:17 am | Permalink

                The main reason Bolsonaro got elected is that the favorite Left guy had to leave the race in order to serve a 12 year sentence for corruption. His replacement was a decent guy who couldn’t compete in the charisma portion of the contest. The poor who voted for Bolsonaro probably didn’t do so for economic reasons, but rather, because he appealed to ingrained far right moral principles (ie family values…anti gay, anti feminism, racism, etc). But my main point, that the middle class, wealthy class voted for him because they’re tired of being carjacked when they go out, still stands.

              • Dick Veldkamp
                Posted October 29, 2018 at 11:13 am | Permalink

                I do not want to whitewash anything, I am just curious to know why so many people voted against their own interest, and why the election turned out the way it did.

                Apart from the explanations given by you, I think there may be another reason why the right always has an advantage: right wing policies often consist of pseudo-solutions that appeal through simplicity.

                In reality things are complex and often counter-intuitive, which makes it more difficult to convince people that ‘left wing policies’ are superior.

                RW: If there is too much crime, introduce harsher sentences, that’ll teach ‘m!
                LW: Crime is a complex societal problem with many underlying causes; maybe we should improve social security and extend education opportunities for the poor. In fact Norway, with its lenient sentences has the lowest recidivism in the world. Every suspect must be treated as innocent until proven guilty. Etc, etc.

              • Posted October 29, 2018 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

                LW and RW. Look up the history of “three strikes” laws in the USA.

  7. Posted October 28, 2018 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    Start will a repeal or at least a rewording if the second amendment. That will take a few years but it is time to start working on getting it done.


    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted October 28, 2018 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

      THAT has been said every few months (weeks) since … oh, Sandy Hook ? Or a decade before then. Or two decades?

    • Diane G
      Posted October 28, 2018 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

      No way you’re ever gonna get 38 states ratifying such an amendment. Now, if we could do it by popular vote…

      • Posted October 28, 2018 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

        It is a states rights issue. Get the federal government out of gun control and leave it up to the states.

        • Posted October 28, 2018 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

          The 2nd amendment is incoporated against the states

      • David Coxill
        Posted October 29, 2018 at 10:45 am | Permalink

        That is what happens when you have 50 states pretending to be a country .

  8. dd
    Posted October 28, 2018 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    Barri Weiss has written a poignant column about the shootings:

    “On a Saturday morning in March of 1997 I became a bat mitzvah at Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill.”

  9. Hempenstein
    Posted October 28, 2018 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been on the road since before this happened, and still am, but already I’ve learned that the MD who was killed – Rabinowitz, I believe, was someone who paid great attention to my one of my traveling companion’s girlfriends when she was dealing with cancer. Also, a preservation-sympathetic architect friend who I sorely miss was comforted when he was dying of a horrible cancer by the rabbi who was wounded. I think that counts as three degrees of separation in the first case and two in the second.

    I suspect that most Pittsburghers are going to find that there are only a few degrees of separation between them and one of the victims.

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted October 29, 2018 at 6:30 am | Permalink

      My sympathies. This must be a scary time for American Jews, although I guess it’s never been particularly un-scary.

  10. philfinn7
    Posted October 28, 2018 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

    Tragic. I am from ‘downunder’, and once would have thought that Pittsburgh was a million miles away. However, I have met one of the people who was killed. Did not know her well, but a group of us had drinks, dinner and went to a play, here in Singapore, a few years ago. Small world.

  11. Posted October 29, 2018 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    I lived in Squirrel Hill for 2 years when I was at CMU. Nice place, and the “Judaica” is definitely a presence. What a tragedy.

  12. dallos
    Posted October 29, 2018 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    Israel’s Ashkenazi chief rabbi came under fire on Sunday for refusing to acknowledge in a newspaper interview that the massacre in Pittsburgh was carried out in a synagogue.

    Read more:

    • Posted November 10, 2018 at 6:43 am | Permalink

      I think this rabbi must resign, he is a disgrace.

  13. dallos
    Posted October 29, 2018 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    Muslim groups raise money for victims after Pittsburgh synagogue shooting.

    • Diane G
      Posted October 30, 2018 at 2:39 am | Permalink


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