Mourners leave mementos across the street from the Chabad Community Center in Poway, April 29, 2019. (Photo/JTA-Gabrielle Birkner)
Mourners leave mementos across the street from the Chabad Community Center in Poway, April 29, 2019. (Photo/JTA-Gabrielle Birkner)

We must not let grief numb us to reality

“I might need to run again.” Those were the heartbreaking words from Noya Dahan, the 8-year-old girl wounded during the shooting at a Chabad center in Poway, California, last Shabbat, at the hands of an avowed white nationalist.

Indeed, Noya might need to run again in this dystopian new America, where Jews no longer feel safe in their houses of worship. Muslims, African Americans and other minorities have felt this fear for a long time; now it has come to plague the Jewish community as well.

The Poway shooting claimed the life of Lori Gilbert-Kaye, 60, and wounded three others, including the rabbi, Yisroel Goldstein. This act of terror came six months to the day after the shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue, which claimed 11 lives. And it came on the last day of Passover, as if to underscore the hatred on a holiday that celebrates Jewish freedom.

Anti-Jewish murder is now part of our landscape, a grisly subplot in the never-ending story of America’s obsession with guns and grievance.

The Poway shooting came just days before the release of the ADL’s annual audit of anti-Semitic incidents. The tally shows that anti-Semitic harassment, vandalism and attacks were down overall from 2017, but the violence of those attacks increased markedly in 2018.

Anti-Jewish murder is now part of our landscape, a grisly subplot in the never-ending story of America’s obsession with guns and grievance.

And of the nearly 250 acts of anti-Semitism attributed to individuals motivated by extremist ideology, all were committed by white supremacists. This is homegrown domestic terrorism, and needs to be taken much more seriously by our country’s leaders.

Another disturbing aspect of this crime is the relatively muted response, especially compared to Pittsburgh last fall. There have been no community-wide vigils, as there were after the Pittsburgh shootings. Is it because “only” one person was killed?

It’s as if we as a society are infected with terror fatigue. And that can lead us to turn away from problems that need to be faced.

Chabad leaders have urged Jews to honor the victims by attending Shabbat services this weekend, so we expect pews to be full. One local synagogue, B’nai Israel in Petaluma, is suspending its own Friday night services so that congregants may attend a candlelighting service at the Chabad Jewish Center of Petaluma.

That is what solidarity looks like. We encourage other congregations to do the same. It is a shame the national leaders of the other Jewish streams have not made this call themselves.

We honor the wounded of Poway and, especially, the late Lori Gilbert-Kaye. May her memory be for a blessing.

J. Editorial Board

The J. Editorial Board pens editorials as the voice of J.