As many of you have probably heard, on October 27th, 11 Jewish attendees of Saturday morning services at the Tree of Life Temple in Pittsburgh were brutally murdered. When I saw the news headlines, I was instantly horrified. I didn't understand how this could happen in a country that was founded upon religious freedoms and has served as a sanctuary for persecuted Jews for centuries.
My family immigrated to the United States from Russia and Poland during the time of the Pogroms. The Pogroms attacked Jews throughout the Russian Empire. My family history in the United States starts with the desire for religious freedom and living without fear of persecution. I have always been so proud to be a descendant of such brave people.
The Jewish people are the most persecuted people in history, dating back to biblical times. We have overcome so much adversity. Last year, I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Poland and Israel on a program called The March of the Living. Through this program, I visited concentration camps in Poland and bore witness to the atrocities that plagued my people. At the concentration camps, I was filled with sadness and anger. I just question how hatred could be so strong and manifest itself into so much devastation. I felt some comfort in knowing that I lived in a country where I have been protected from such persecution. "Never Again" we words I heard hundreds of times on that trip. Never again would we see our people in such suffering.
This past weekend, my world was turned upside down. Blind hatred and ignorance took the lives of 11 of my people. I have never been so proud to be Jewish. I come from such a resilient people that even in the United States, in this day and age, still must overcome persecution. It is not a time to shy away from who I am, and how I was raised. It is time to appreciate my Jewish values and persevere as a people.