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The Jewish Community of Greater Pittsburgh is very special. This goes beyond our usual sense of exceptionalism. Pittsburgh is a VERY Jewish city (50,000 or so), aside from the Jewish "ghetto" of Squirrel Hill, where I lived for 3 years. Like New York, the Bay Area, and Atlanta, even people who aren't Jewish are attuned our schedule of our holidays and customs. The late Pittsburgh Steelers' owner Art Rooney is in the local Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, though he was not a Member of the Tribe. They altered their iconic logo to reflect their support and solidarity.

tree of life

When I moved to Pittsburgh in 1996, I went “shul shopping” among the many options, before taking membership at Beth Shalom Congregation. Squirrel Hill has dozens of temples and shuls that span the broad spectrum of Judaism. Aside from the many small academies and shuls, there are large complexes such as Beth Shalom and Tree of Life, which host multiple services in the same building most weekends. I found Tree of Life to be a beautiful, welcoming congregation, and has always been a vital part of Pittsburgh’s Jewish “fabric.”

Squirrel Hill is one of the few Jewish communities outside of New York and Chicago that actually has “street life.” That is a bustling neighborhood, mainly along Murray Avenue with many Jewish owned businesses catering to Jews (delis, bakeries, green grocers, bookstores, and one of the country’s BEST JCC’s!). The vibe in Squirrel Hill draws people from all over the city of all races and ethnicities. I sometimes shared tables with black folks from the East Liberty neighborhood, who were happy to be in a “safer” place for the evening. Pittsburgh is one of the country’s most vital, diverse, beautiful and interesting cities. I was honored to present a blues and jazz show on WYEP-FM, a great public radio station.

Steeler Jews 2

The massacre at Tree of Life is tragic and disturbing on every level. Most notably, the thought of aging Jewish people going to the synagogue, and being murdered. Don’t try to tell me this is not political; don’t try to tell me this was not inspired by Trump’s reckless and incendiary rhetoric. And don’t try to tell me this is not the time to blame anyone. Trump has used his campaign rallies to rile up his unwashed masses to commit violent crimes against members of the media, people of color, Jews and other others. The assassin bought Trump’s line that the Jews were “funding” the caravan of poor people on an Exodus from Central America through the venerable Hebrew Immigration Aid Society (HIAS). So we have an act of WHITE, American-bred terrorism, inflicted on a minority religion, borne out of the stupidity of an ignorant man, who is too dumb to understand that nothing Trump says can possibly be true. And we have a political culture, held hostage by the NRA and a minority party through voter suppression, gerrymandering and dirty tricks by multiple Secretaries of State.

It’s time to call the Republican Party for what it’s become – a haven and source of empowerment for the worst elements of the dregs of the fringes of the marginalized idiots, who are no longer marginalized, thanks to Trump.

It’s time to call the Republican Party for what it’s become – a haven and source of empowerment for the worst elements of the dregs of the fringes of the marginalized idiots, who are no longer marginalized, thanks to Trump. He has seduced, conned, snookered and overwhelmed what WAS the Republican Party into becoming that. But the seeds of this divisiveness were sown by Ronald Reagan, with some play-calling out of Richard Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” – that was a coded and veiled appeal to the racist dynamics of simmering resentments that are as old as Reconstruction. For many people the Civil War never ended. As a child it made me sick to see license plates and bumper stickers that said, “Hell no, I ain’t forgettin’,” with some primitive art of an old Johnny Reb. That never was cute. I thought the last battle of the Civil War occurred in Oxford, MS in 1963 with the riots surrounding the admission of James Meredith into grad school at Ole Miss. Guess what? The Rebels only retreated until they got the all-clear signal from Trump.

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Since Reagan, I’ve been troubled by the feckless arguments some Jews present for supporting a Republican agenda and philosophy. Some rabbis are steadfast in upholding and defending Jewish ideals regardless of how political winds blow. Others are chameleons. When Reagan was campaigning in 1979, a Memphis rabbi warned from the pulpit, about the danger and reckless nature of Reagan’s campaign promises, along with the coded racist “dog whistles” he presented at his campaign kickoff in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Shortly before Reagan left office, this same rabbi waxed wistfully about “Papa Reagan” as a folk hero. In between those times, the Rev. Ed McAteer had bellowed on national TV that “G-d doesn’t hear the prayers of Jews.” The same rabbi properly called out Rev. McAteer for abusing his clerical standing to promote anti-Semitism. Then two years later, the same rabbi publically honored the same Rev. McAteer as a “Friend of Israel.” When I politely asked the rabbi about that incongruence after a service, he turned his back and walked away without a word. Fortunately, that rabbi retired and his successor offers a much more thoughtful and dynamic brand of spiritual leadership. But many members of Temple Israel in Memphis are still deeply wedded to the far-far right. I can’t buy the argument that, “I only subscribe to the economic aspects of Reagan-Trump; the racist stuff bothers me.” NO, you bought the whole package.

Evangelical “love” for Israel is a phony card. How can people “love” Israel, but hate the Jews? The Apocalypse and Rapture can’t happen until the Jews are rounded up all in one place. It’s a euphemized version of “The Final Solution,” but with the same results – to rid the world of Jews. Jewish Republicans hate hearing this.

It’s time for any remaining Republicans with a conscience to dissociate themselves, quit the party, scream that “THIS IS NOT ME.” Robert Reich prompted the question as to whether there still IS a Republican Party, outside of Fox News and Trump. He has subsumed it, and it now has no other identity.

The oldest victim of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting was 97 year-old Rose Mallinger. Her son Alan was a casual friend of mine as an athletic director at the JCC. The shock and horror of this is beyond anyone's ability to "process." Though we're all dazed, grieving and hurting, there is great comfort in the expressions of support and solidarity. Two Muslim charities, M Power and Celebrate Mercy have raised over $50,000 for victims’ families and survivors in a Crowdfunding campaign! We take comfort in the broad and sincere expression of support from leaders of other religions, The Pittsburgh Steelers, and other good citizens as we say Kaddish for the victims:

Joyce Feinberg- 75
Richard Gotfried- 65
Rose Malinger- 97
Jerry Rabinowitz- 66
Cesil Rosenthal (brother)- 59
David Rosenthal (brother)- 54
Bernice Simon (wife)- 84
Sylvan Simon (husband)- 86
Daniel Stein- 71
Melvin Wax- 88
Irving Youngner- 69,

scott prosterman

H. Scott Prosterman