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Synagogue Security

In response to the deadly Pittsburgh Tree of Life attack, it is time to acknowledge trading off our freedom of entry to attend our houses of worship. Is not the comfort to pray in peace and celebrate mitzvahs worth submitting to extra security measures?

When my wife and I attended her cousin’s 2016 Paris bar mitzvah, we were shocked yet assured to see six automatic rifle armed military officers surrounding the synagogue. We also visited multiple Italian synagogues and temples, and experienced extreme levels of security required to enter such establishments under the scrutiny of trained security staff. This after submitting identification to then proceed through revolving bulletproof doors.

The reality is we must realize anti-Semitism will never subside and, if going forward in our divisive, hate-filled society these heightened entry security measures are needed, so be it.

Graham Fishman

West Bloomfield

Anti-Semitism, Racism and Absolute Rule

Many people who didn’t see or study the activities of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1950s and 1960s don’t realize the extent to which anti-Semitism and racism are tied together. Confusion is probably caused by conflicts between Jews and Arabs in and near Israel. That conflict is over land and needs to be addressed in terms of the needs of both groups — as difficult as that may be.

But “Alt-Right” (i.e. Klan/neo-Nazi) anti-Semitism is of a different nature. It comes from a demonization of Jews that goes back to the Middle Ages. It has origins in intolerance of religious difference. That difference went against the absolute control that connected pre-modern religion and politics. The insistence on single ideologies still exists in some countries and groups, whether the absolute thinking is religious or secular.

For reasons that appear to have more to do with mentality than logic, anti-Semitism has consistently combined with racism. What some don’t seem to realize is that hate speech against one group spins off into hate speech and violence toward another.

Nazi anti-Semitism didn’t restrict itself to Europe; some of the demonizing tracts that Hitler spread have shown up in the Middle East and in America. They are brought by racist and anti-Semitic groups in a mental place where “right” and “left” meet.

Given the president’s remarks about “both sides” in relation to the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally, it should be pointed out that the parallel to the Klan and neo-Nazis isn’t CNN or anti-racist protesters; it’s Al Qaeda.

Today, our president is using the Russian term “enemy of the people” to refer to members of the press. This came out of the Stalin era, where anyone Stalin thought was threatening his dominance was called by that name and sentenced to exile in Siberia — in conditions that frequently caused people’s deaths.

Chaos in the form of informal, pro-Nazi violence in Germany led to Hitler’s absolute crackdown. Although we’re not seeing that extreme today, we are seeing a similar combination of chaotic speech that fuels violence and increasing crackdowns on vulnerable people. At present, fictional demonization followed by troop deployments are being directed at asylum seekers traveling together for safety. Tragically, negative myths about refugees led the shooter in Pittsburgh to target Jews for the work of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.

I think most of us feel the need to respond to this situation. Following the election, I feel we can continue to respond by contributing to thinking that supports our true humanity and letting our voices be heard.

Edna Garte

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