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This is a testament to how safe the United States has been for us. We have been reminded that we are targets of persistent hatred who may never win unconditional acceptance in white Christian America. Anti-black racism and anti-Semitism are different in all sorts of important ways.


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My synagogue belongs to the Reform Jewish movement, the most popular of the three major denominations in the United States and the most theologically liberal. One of my favorite annual events is our Martin Luther King Jr.

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We will not be cowed by a killer; we will double down on the kind of activism that we believe our tradition requires. We are not alone. In the past year, Jews have become even more visible in the public square, advocating at once for the rights of others and our own place in America. The renewed level of Jewish attention to our vulnerable status, to the ineradicable truth of what it means to be a historically persecuted minority is leading many Jews to rally behind one another, asserting our right to be in America in inspiring ways.

This is particularly visible among Jewish left-wing activists. The Jewish left has been growing in strength since the beginning of the Trump administration but, in the year since Pittsburgh, it seems to have quickened the pace — and the specifically Jewish character of this activist work has deepened and intensified. The energy has not entirely abated, at least in Pittsburgh.

The Jewish community is not entirely united on how to act in this moment nor about much of anything else, for that matter. More traditional and conservative Jewish voices, including New York Times columnist and Pittsburgh native Bari Weiss, have taken an entirely different perspective.

What they see as anti-Semitism on the left, exemplified by a handful of insensitive comments about Israel and its relationship with the US from Rep. Ilhan Omar , is in their view as serious a problem as anti-Semitism on the right.

For Jews like Weiss, the primary lesson after Pittsburgh is not that Jews share the same interests as other minority groups or the political left, but rather that anti-Semitism is a disease that afflicts all groups in distinctive ways. For this reason, Jews should be particularly sensitive to it among their political allies. In this country, left-wing anti-Semitism is a relatively marginal phenomenon compared to its right-wing twin. The new Jewish understanding of our minority status reflects a correct assessment, particularly among younger Jews, that there is a fundamental asymmetry in the nature of American anti-Semitism.

In some ways, the very fact of this debate — that Jews are arguing so loudly about who the real threats are, and how our community should best organize in response to them — is indicative of a deeper, even more encouraging Jewish truth: that Jews seem to be more deeply engaging in American life as Jews. Jews do not let anti-Semites set the terms for our lives.

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My family synagogue burned down in Minnesota this week. We lost much more than a building.

Samuel Schachner, the president of Tree of Life, was mere blocks from the synagogue, walking to services with his children, when the shooter opened fire last year. With donor support, he plans to construct a new building to house Tree of Life — and turn the old one into a center for Jewish life, including a permanent memorial to the 11 people killed last year. The outpouring of support for his community has lifted him through the difficulty, he says. But I could not and did not grant the Pittsburgh shooter the victory of ruining a Jewish celebration.

My most enduring Jewish memories from my wedding day will not be watching TV coverage of Pittsburgh. It will be standing under the chuppah with my wife: signing our ketubah, hearing our friends recite the seven blessings, and being lifted in chairs on the dance floor. At the end of the 14th century, in , the Jewish communities, expelled frm the French kingdom, took refuge in the Comtat Venaissin, an independent state belonging to the papacy from the 13th to the 18th century.

They were called "the Pope's Jews" by the local population, because they were dependent upon the Pope as their host, but the Pope's tolerance was relative :.

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In the 17th century, with the Counter-Reformation, this measure intensified. Exclusion, insecurity, promiscuity and hygiene problems were part of every day life for the inhabitants.

Jews dance in the synagogue

The humiliations were many for this small community, neighbour of a few kilometers to those of Carpentras, Avignon, and Isle sur la Sorgue, other ghettos. If the right to their religion and to self-government was recognized, Jewish men were obligated to wear a yellow hat when they went out. They had to pay particualr taxes.

The Jewish answer to how to punish the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter

They also had to listen to Christian sermons calling on them to convert, etc. Only professions authorized by the Pope were open to them. It had its rules and its leader. Life revolved around the synagogue, the place where prayers, education and meetings took place. For the Church, the keeping of a small group of Jews wretched and humble must testify to the fate of Israel, punished for having refused Christianity. The repetition over the ages of restrictive measures is, however, an indication that they were, in reality, not implemented much. The "Pope's Jews", as they were to be called, seemed to have had good relations with their fellow, Christian citizens.

During the 18th century, the economic situation of the Jews improved. Batei Knesset or the houses of the assembly in Greek: synagogues protected the Jews from assimilation and dissolution in the cultures and the peoples among which they lived. As the Talmud says, synagogues are like vineyards: when visited in winter, they exhibit dry branches and give no hint of their future blossom or fruit; and even the ripe fruit does not reflect the taste of the future wine, which takes time to reach perfection.

There is a Jewish legend that speaks of the custom of refraining from repainting the synagogue walls, because it is believed that the prayers of previous generations stick to them as dust would. That measure ensures that the prayers of the times past are bound with those of the future, and that way are never alone. There are synagogues which, through their history, create a bond with the past, which are monuments and memorials of the times past. Whilst praying within its walls, it is difficult not to sense the immense scale of the crimes committed in this city.


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  • Visits of this character are generally brief and offer little opportunity for taking note of the present, which is not as abundant and lively as eighty years ago, yet Jewish life continues here. It is the minyan or a quorum of 10 coming together to prayer that is decisive to the life of a synagogue. Without that minimum number, not all the pray can be recited, and the Torah scroll cannot be read publicly.