I was taught in Squirrel Hill that we were in the one country that was an exception to the history of the human race in general and the Jews in particular. Founded on Enlightenment principles of individuality, freedom, tolerance and justice, the United States was the only place besides Israel where Jews could live at one with their nation, unburdened by fear or confusion about identity.
Now I must wonder: If Pittsburgh isn’t safe for Jews, if Squirrel Hill isn’t safe, if the Tree of Life isn’t safe, what place is? Without diminishing anyone else’s suffering and death, it’s a sad fact that the Jews often are the canaries in the coal mine of social and political collapse. So, what does the bloodshed in the Tree of Life mean?
It is a sign that hatred of The Other is poisoning our public life. It’s always been a vivid strain in America, stimulated by the stress of immigrant waves, but one we have overcome time and again. Although we often honor it in the breach, our founding idea remains: that each person here is precious and born with unalienable rights. Now, political enemies in America deny each other’s humanity.