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Stronger Than Hate

November 16, 2018 by

It was a regular Saturday morning, and I was finishing a lab assignment when I first saw the news of the shooting at a synagogue in Squirrel Hill, just minutes from my house. Though hours passed before the police released details, it was clear from the start that this was an act of hatred directed specifically at the Jewish people. Although I am Christian, my heritage is Jewish, and for the first time, the virulent antisemitism familiar from our history felt personal. I went straight to the on-campus Rabbi’s house where several Jewish students were gathering as the shock settled. Much needed hugs and conversation helped us voice our distress; a shared fear is a weaker fear and we gained strength through each other. And I saw that night when I visited the impromptu memorial outside the Tree of Life Synagogue that love not only survived this tragedy, but blossomed out of it.

vigil for Tree of Life Synagogue victims

The following Friday evening, as I looked across a room filled with hundreds of University of Pittsburgh students all standing to say Kiddush at a Shabbat meal in remembrance of the eleven lives lost, I could not ignore the irony. The killer’s intention had been to break us as a people, yet as we have done through the centuries, the Jewish people remained stronger than the evil shown them. And although not everyone in the room was Jewish, we stood united against hatred. The outpouring of support extended to the families of victims and others affected by the shooting is impressive. Campus groups have been active on social media, raising funds for the congregation from the Tree of Life Synagogue. The university administration has helped to organize a gathering of students on Monday to honor the victims. The Muslim community too has chosen to look past political and ethnic tensions and has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to support the Jewish community.

Although I am Christian, my heritage is Jewish, and for the first time, the virulent antisemitism familiar from our history felt personal.

Though I have heard many examples of charity and selflessness over the past week, the one I find the most remarkable is also the most unlikely. Ari Mahler, the trauma nurse responsible for the care of the perpetrator, was himself Jewish. He wrote a beautiful post on Facebook expressing his initial terror and apprehension in caring for this patient as well as his decision to show compassion despite the circumstances. Mahler’s actions that day encapsulated the essence of my people’s response: “I chose to show him empathy. I felt that the best way to honor his victims was for a Jew to prove him wrong.… Love. That’s why I did it. Love as an action is more powerful than words, and love in the face of evil gives others hope.”

The expressions of support and love combating hate and division continue in this city. As for me, I have to do my part to counter the social climate in which mass shootings are an act almost taken for granted. That is why I was outside our Cathedral of Learning this past Monday, at one of the many vigils we’ve had in the city, standing in solidarity with thousands of my peers. It was my way of expressing my longing – my commitment – to peace and love. It was our way of showing that we are stronger than hate, that we are #PittsburghStrong.


Franklin King is currently in his sophomore year, studying biology at the University of Pittsburgh.

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  • go Franklin! bw

    ben
  • Thanks for sharing, darling nephew, and thanks for enmeshing your lives with others who live and think differently, but can find love. xxoo

    Rosalind Gauchat