I went down to DC for the weekend for my cousin's Bat Mitzvah. As my aunt was sitting in her hair salon chair, getting ready and stressing over her daughter's big day, she got a call from the Rabbi telling her that eleven people were killed in a hate crime shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. The Rabbi reassured her not to worry, that they would tighten the security during the service later that day.
In a country where we're supposed to have freedom of religion, these people fell victim to a horrendous anti-semitic act when they were just trying to practice their faith. Hateful prejudice leading to violence, like Saturday's Pittsburgh shooting, is unfortunately not a new concept, and yet sitting there in the synagogue that day, surrounded by loved ones, I had a whole new perspective when reflecting on the tragedy.
Saturday was not only a milestone in my cousin's life, but for me, it was the first time in a while my whole family had been together. Needless to say, it was a happy occasion, but it's hard to be happy and celebrate on a day when so many lost their lives in their place of worship doing the same exact thing we were.
Although I always felt pretty invincible living my day to day life, this year had me starting to question my safety in school. A synagogue should be a safe space as well, but instead, here I was celebrating my cousin's big day with two DC cops stationed outside the building during the service. Even though it was a precautionary measure, it's incredibly sad that this would be considered necessary let alone something that one would even think to have.
Then there's the issue of Trump saying that gun laws have "little to do with it," placing the blame on the victims by claiming that "if they had some kind of protection inside the temple, maybe it could've been a much different situation." Victim blaming is never the answer. A synagogue is a place of worship, of community, and these people had their innocence so brutally transgressed. On top of that, to have our own president pin fault onto those who played no role in deserving, nor causing such violence, speaks volumes to the state of our nation today. It should go without saying, but guns and hate are both all too prevalent in our culture, and together they create a bad combination of bias and violence.
It is saddening to step back and realize that these events have become all too familiar to us, and that after each tragedy, we become slowly desensitized to the violence. This is one of the scariest parts, because each act of violence, stigmatized through social media platforms, spark even more by causing others to do the same. Sandy Hook. Aurora. San Bernardino. Orlando. Parkland. As the list grows, it is important to remember these victims instead of putting the shooters on a platform. More importantly, gun violence is an epidemic that must be stopped, and this can't be realized if we blame the victims.